A History of the Mississippi River Commission, 1879-1928: from Levees-Only to a Comprehensive Program of Flood Control for the Lower Mississippi Valley
Description: In 1879 Congress created the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) to develop and coordinate federal flood control policy for the Lower Mississippi River. Through 1927, that Commission clung stubbornly to a "levees-only" policy that was based on the mistaken belief that levees alone could be effective in controlling the flood waters of the Mississippi River. When the levees failed--and they occasionally did--the MRC responded by raising and strengthening the system but refused to adopt a more comprehensive program, one which would include outlets and reservoirs. Finally, a disastrous flood in 1927 forced the abandonment of levees-only and the adoption of a comprehensive plan for the Lower Mississippi River. Predictably, the MRC faced heavy criticism following the failure of its highly-touted levee system in 1927. While certainly the Commission was culpable, there was plenty of fault to go around and a plethora of mitigating circumstances. Developing a plan for achieving adequate flood control along the lower Mississippi River constituted what was probably the most difficult and complex engineering problem ever undertaken by the U. S. Government. Additionally, there were innumerable political and financial constraints that worked to shape MRC policy. This study will endeavor to tell the story of the MRC from its earliest origins through the landmark 1928 Flood Control Act, and, in the process, give evidence to the reality that the Commission did not function independently. As an organization, it relied upon outside forces for its membership, for its jurisdiction, and for the appropriations necessary to carry out its policies. Significantly, these forces were politically driven and did not always, or even often, share the MRC's priorities for the Lower Mississippi River. Even so, the MRC accomplished a great deal in its efforts to protect the Valley from moderate floods, to improve the navigability of the Mississippi River, and to ...
Date: August 1996
Creator: Pearcy, Matthew Todd, 1967-