Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a 200-acre, scale model of the Mississippi River Basin (13 Pics)

After decades of devastating flood in the Mississippi River Basin, Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1928 which called for immediate implementation of a plan to control the waters of the mighty Mississippi. In the next decade, the Army Corps of Engineers built 29 dams and locks, hundreds of runoff channels, and over a thousand miles of new, higher levees. But the river was not an easy beast to tame. In 1936 another huge flood displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio, prompting Congress to pass yet another Flood Control Act and a series of new works began along the river. The typical response to a flood was to dam areas that had been affected. But such control measures only targeted single sites, and did not look at the entire river system as a whole. As soon as a dam would be built, floods would gush into a new region.

Major Eugene Reybold, Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers realized the flaw in the current approach. A visionary, Reybold came up with a radical solution: build a large scale hydraulic model of the entire Mississippi River Basin and study the “interactive effects of weather and proposed control measures over time”, and use the knowledge to “develop plans for the coordination of flood-control problems throughout the Mississippi River Basin.”

In Vicksburg, at the Waterways Experiment Station, there already was a model of a small section of the Kanawha River, which could simulate historic flood events and produce accurate flood hydrographs of the Kanawha River. Using the Kanawha River as a pilot model, Reybold drew up a comprehensive plan for the Mississippi River Basin model. The ambitious model would replicate the Mississippi River and its major tributaries — the Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri Rivers — encompassing 41 percent of the land area of the United States and 15,000 miles of river.

The site selected for the 200-acre working hydraulic model is located near Clinton, Mississippi, not far from Vicksburg. At that time, World War 2 was on and able bodied men were in short supply, so Reybold sought and was granted permission to employ German prisoners of war as laborers to clear and prepare the site. Preparing the site itself took three years from January 1943 to May 1946, before model construction could begin.


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