Harnessing the Mississippi River for the Hearltand and Beyond
by Eric Kavanagh
Old Man River just keeps on rolling. Every year, the Mississippi rises. The dividing line of our Continental United States swells each Spring with the currents of North American tributaries large and small. In a world of remarkable unpredictability, of this one perennial reality, we can remain quite sure.
Certitude is something the markets love, something most people need in order to sleep well at night. While almost nothing in life is ever certain – save death and lots of taxes – still, the encouragement provided by recurring patterns helps keep the home fires burning in even the coldest financial winters.
Which brings us to an overwhelming question: Why not harness the natural power, the eco-mastery of this world wonder? After all, the Romans built aqueducts to propagate the nourishing gifts of water througout their growing empire… which lasted more than a millenium. Why shouldn’t we?
Obviously, engineers and other experts would need to map out the specifics, but the broad strokes are clear: Create overflow aqueducts at various points along the Mississippi’s route to offload the excess flow created each spring. Connect these aqueducts where appropriate, both east and west of the river.
Let’s consider the up sides to this plan: 1) protect cities like St. Louis, Memphis, Natchez, New Orleans and others; 2) create tens of thousands of jobs for years to come; 3) deliver invaluable water to otherwise drought-prone, agriculturally significant lands; 4) save millions of Louisiana oysters!
Seriously, Texas is going through a major drought right now, resulting in rampant wildfires across the Lone Star State. And during any given year, lack of rain causes pain and misery in any number of Midwestern states. Why not spread the wealth of American water beyond the center of our nation?
And the down sides? Human intervention does cause issues, no doubt. There will be environmental impacts. But there are impacts already, including loss of wetlands in Southern Louisiana, which threatens New Orleans. Still, placing more control valves along the Mississippi will provide options.
Were this system now in place, we would not fret about the loss of property, the risk to life, the potential for great American cities to flood. We would be celebrating the cycle of nature, thanking our lucky stars, and preparing for the bounty of goods that would result from all that additional water.
Let’s get back to the basics. Instead of subsidizing fee-happy consumer banks that almost went belly up by risking their (and our) capital on complex derivatives, why not finance a solution that even ancient peoples understood as central to the prosperity and longevity of countless generations?
If we’re in the age of Big Government, let’s make some big things of use. Say what you will about big-ticket federal spending, the Hoover Damn is darn cool, and it continues to serve as a wellspring of value for a significant portion of the USA, providing jobs, energy and a serious stream of tourists.
An inspiration to Mark Twain, one of the greatest writers to grace our country, the mighty Mississippi is the aorta of America. With enough creativity and a healthy dose of guidance from the federal government, we can mitigate serious risk while giving our economy a shot in the arm. Thoughts?