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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/29

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THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER PROBLEM

regard it as impossible, or, at least, highly impracticable; on the other side, those who consider that it is not only feasible but at once the only proper remedy. It is admitted by every one that the topography of the country about the head-waters of the Mississippi system is especially well adapted to the construction of retention dams and reservoirs. The arguments advanced against this plan, though admitting this condition of favorable topography, maintain that sufficiently large reservoirs could not be constructed and made safe or, in other words, they would, through danger of bursting, be a constant menace to the whole valley below the retaining dam. Again it is argued that if this plan were adopted, the building of reservoirs would have to be done on an enormous scale, since destructive floods often result from local conditions, such as a swollen tributary superimposed on an already swollen river. This necessity for a widely extended system of reservoirs, it is further claimed, would involve such tremendous expense as to make the adoption of the plan impossible. Most of these supposed objections are still based on a report made to congress nearly fifty years ago, and, whether good or bad arguments then, there is no question that they do not apply now.

It is flying in the face of cold facts to contend any longer that reservoirs to retain the flood waters can not be built, or not without danger to the entire valley below. The Ohio floods of 1907, the most disastrous for more than two decades, were due to an excess of water estimated at 23,000,000,000 cubic feet. To hold every drop of that excess discharge would have required a reservoir only a little more than half as big as the Pathfinder irrigation storage reservoir on the North Platte River in Wyoming, or one third of the size of the reservoir in the Salt River project in Arizona. The Engle dam on the Rio Grande, a hundred miles north of El Paso, Texas, will impound about 120,000,000,000 cubic feet of water, equal to one sixtieth of the total annual discharge of the entire Mississippi system, or more than five times the quantity of water causing the most destructive Ohio flood in a score of years. These reservoirs are being built by the government at a cost of about $4,000,000 for the Pathfinder dam, $5,300,000 for the Salt River project and $7,200,000 for the Rio Grande reservoir. Furthermore, it is expressly stated by the Reclamation Service that the Wyoming reservoir and the Engle dam will absolutely control the worst floods which the North Platte and the Rio Grande have ever known, the latter of these streams having been a notorious offender in flood damage. The mere fact of being able to retain the flood waters in impounding reservoirs can no longer be denied, nor can the claim of danger from breaking dams be now advanced as a valid argument against this system. This government is most assuredly not spending millions in reclamation projects and encouraging thousands of people to take up