The Nation's Pulse

Me Oh My, On the Bayou

They've opened up the floodgates.

By 5.16.11

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So, they've opened the floodgates and some 25,000 Cajuns must now bear the brunt of what the Mississippi had in store for Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Morganza spillway is now throwing the pent-up waters of Ol' Man River into the little-known Atchafalaya River Basin -- a waterway that parallels the Mississippi on the big river's west and finally spews into the Gulf.

The decision sacrifices some of the little-known of Cajun country in favor of the big city dwellers and may mean the end of houses for thousands living in the basin and thousands more animals suddenly faced with flooding where life had been relatively dry. Several folks hurriedly spent their life savings trying to protect their properties with hastily thrown-up dams and levies before they headed for higher ground. Several towns are in the way, chief of them Morgan City, which has a 20-foot floodwall but no assurance that will keep the place dry when the walls of water reach there at mid-week.

Years ago, the U.S. Corps of Engineers ran a stern-wheeler down the basin, hewing to the river where possible, affording passengers aboard the Newton a view of some of the wildest country in America, soon to become some of the wettest. Morgan City was the objective of the ride and loomed like a metropolis when it finally appeared.

Nobody knows for certain how many the Atchafalaya diversion will affect but the area is estimated at 3,000 square miles. Chances are the Cajuns there don't vote like the big city folk in Baton Rouge and New Orleans -- but that, like the water coming, may change things.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.