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Should We Follow the Dutch and Give Land Back to the Flooding Mississippi River?

Rather than battle rivers with expensive dikes and levees and canals, the Dutch give them more room to flow freely. Maybe we could learn from them.

This morning, the Mississippi River crested in Memphis, rising just shy of the all-time record height of 48.7 feet set during the great 1937 flood. The river, normally half a mile wide at Memphis, is now about three miles wide.

The only reason that this flood didn't set a new record was because the Army Corps of Engineers blasted levees and opened up two "floodways." The first was upriver, near Cairo, Illinois. As I wrote last week, this levee breach flooded thousands of acres of farmland in Missouri. (You can see incredible before and after satellite photos here.) While it seems like a tragedy for the Missouri farmers, in fact, flooding their land is exactly what's supposed to happen in this sort of storm. These floodways are part of the Army Corps' actual engineering plan. There's a reason the Army Corps calls this action "activating the floodway."

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"The Project Flood Is Upon Us": Mississippi River Surge Is a 1-in-500 Year Event

The Mississippi flood happening now is a "Project Flood"—the biggest that could ever occur on the river.

Late Monday night, as we indicated that they might, the Army Corps of Engineers blew up a section of levee on the Mississippi in order to protect the town of Cairo, Illinois from record floods.

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