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Breaching the levee, then and now

Given the big international news events of the past week (Osama bin Laden, the royal wedding), the story of the demolition of a Mississippi River levee in Missouri to ease severe flooding has gotten remarkably high exposure. At the University of Illinois Press blog, historian Jarod Roll (Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South) writes an excellent piece on the last time that the Bird's Point-New Madrid Spillway was intentionally breached, in 1937. Back then, the action spurred not only the creation of federal public housing for the displaced, but also government-provided health care.

Although impossible to predict, the effects of the 2011 flood will probably not be as dramatic as those that followed the inundation of 1937. It would be difficult to imagine renewed protests for federal housing projects, especially in a section of Missouri that once routinely voted Democratic, but is now a Republican stronghold. It is perhaps even more difficult to imagine protestors using the flood to not only call for but actually receive a government health service.

Times have definitely changed, and not necessarily for the better.

May 4, 2011 in Current Affairs, History | Permalink


I agree.

Posted by: Paul at May 4, 2011 4:06:04 PM

I don't understand why someone would like in a flood zone. Someone else might not understand why I live in a volcano zone.

Once upon a time the Corps of Engineers was going to realign the world according to the way we wanted it. I think we may have reached the point where we realize that even the mighty Corps is no match for Mother Nature.

Posted by: Charles Pergiel at May 12, 2011 12:46:37 PM