The United States has one of the largest and costliest flood control systems in the world, even though only a small proportion of its land lies in floodplains. Rivers by Design traces the emergence of the mammoth U.S. flood management system, which is overseen by the federal government but implemented in conjunction with state governments and local contractors and levee districts. Karen M. O'Neill analyzes the social origins of the flood control program, showing how the system initially developed as a response to the demands of farmers and the business elite in outlying territories. The configuration of the current system continues to reflect decisions made in the nineteenth century and early twentieth. It favors economic development at the expense of environmental concerns.O'Neill focuses on the creation of flood control programs along the lower Mississippi River and the Sacramento River, the first two rivers to receive federal flood control aid. She describes how, in the early to mid-nineteenth century, planters, shippers, and merchants from both regions campaigned for federal assistance with flood control efforts. She explains how the federal government was slowly and reluctantly drawn into water management to the extent that, over time, nearly every river in the United States was reengineered. Her narrative culminates in the passage of the national Flood Control Act of 1936, which empowered the Army Corps of Engineers to build projects for all navigable rivers in conjunction with local authorities, effectively ending nationwide, comprehensive planning for the protection of water resources.
Karen M. O'Neill is Assistant Professor of Human Ecology and an associate member of the Graduate Program in Sociology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
Tables and Maps ix Preface xi Acknowledgments xxi I. Rivers and State Authority 1 1. Infrastructure Builds the State 3 2. The Founding Principles of River Development 13 II. Regional Competition and the Rise of the Flood Control Campaign 27 3. The Mississippi River: Becoming the Nation's River 31 4. The Mississippi River: Resentment Leading to Civil War 43 5. The Mississippi River: Postwar Reunification, Postwar Aid 56 6. The Sacramento River: Miners versus Farmers 68 7. The Sacramento River: Capitalists Unify for Development 80 III. Redesigning Rivers in the National Interest 97 8. Federal Aid for the Mississippi and Sacramento Rivers 99 9. The Fully Designed River 128 10. A Nationwide Program for Flood Control 150 11. Rivers by Design 179 Appendix 1. Mississippi Valley River Improvement Conventions 187 Appendix 2. Mississippi River Levee Association, Executive Committee 197 Notes 199 Bibliography 243 Index 265