Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, September 19, 2021

In the middle of my narrative rumination on an alternate political destiny for North America if the South had won the Civil War, I inserted a casual geographical development:

The [Louisiana Free State] maintains a balance of power through its extensive petroleum resources and the status of New New Orleans (formerly Morgan City, before the Mississippi River changed course through natural causes during the 1920s) as an international world-class trade center.

Anyone paying attention might have dismissed this as just a wholly fantastical plot device, as unreal as the general prospect of a balkanized North America.

But that betrays a poor understanding of the principles behind counterfactual historical speculation: The adherence to real-world developments, as closely as possible given altered circumstances. Therefore, the idea that the Mississippi River would re-route its output is not only rooted in fact, but also under serious consideration today, as a way to restore some balance to Louisiana’s coastline.

Not to worry, as the eggheads advocating a river run wild aren’t calling for a completely natural flow:

Simply letting the Mississippi shift to the Atchafalaya would do a lot for the sediment-starved marshes west of the Mississippi. But it would leave cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans — and the petrochemical infrastructure between them — without fresh water or a navigable waterway.

The diversion the scientists propose would be much farther downstream, but where exactly is not at all certain. One possible location is near Davant, about 45 miles southeast of New Orleans. Another is near Empire, further down the river, where the levees could be opened. In either case the river flow into wet and marshy areas to the west. Another way would have to be found — or constructed — for ships to reach the shipping lane, possibly something engineers call a slack-water channel.

That Atchafalaya path, which was first detected during the 1950s, would indeed roll right past Morgan City. Thus my basis for the fictional New New Orleans (forming in the 1920s, on the assumption that U.S. Army Engineering construction never would have existed, thus leading to an earlier topographical realignment).

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/19/2006 11:20:40 PM
Category: Political, Science, History
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