or, “why the Kentucky Free State does NOT have access to the sea”
REAL- WORLD BACKGROUND:
The Mississippi River has changed course many times and – for several decades – has been likely to swing to the west (following the course of the Atchafalaya River which is a stteper and shorter distance to the Gulf of Mexico). If it did so, the river would no longer flow past Baton Rouge and New Orleans . Instead of discharging through the Bird’s Foot Delta into deep Gulf of Mexico water (a distance of 315 miles) the longest river in North America would flow into the shallows of Atchafalaya Bay (only 142 miles away).
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been given the task of preventing this economic disaster. The Corps built the Old River Control Structure, a billion-dollar marvel of engineering. It is a series of dams built on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport.
The Old River Control Structure suffered catastrophic failure in the first Spring after Death Day. This was the final blow to all attempts to rebuild.
Colossal amounts of water moved down the Atchafalaya River system , creating ten-storey-deep scour holes that migrated along the riverbed, undermining bridge pilings. The Interstate 10 and the U.S. Highway 190 bridges collapsed.
The gas and oil pipelines built beneath the bed of the River ruptured and spilled what remained of their contents . Floodwaters isolated and then destroyed Houma, Raceland, and Thibodaux. Morgan City was drowned and then buried by silt as floodwaters receded. Rotting bodies were trapped in buildings, snagged in tree branches and beached on high ground when water levels dropped.
At the Old River Control Structure, the Mississippi River’s bed is below sea level. The reduced flow in the Mississippi River downstream from the structure was overcome by the pressure of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico. Seawater rapidly extended upstream from the Gulf, contaminating water supplies needed for drinking and industry, first in Port Sulphur and then in New Orleans itself.
The Mississippi River channel just south of the Old River Control Structure silted in, cutting off barge traffic and isolating what remained of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
The outlet of the Atchafalaya River (which allows ship traffic to move in and out of Morgan City) silted in.
Next entry will describe some of the group’s who live in the Marsh