RED RIVER TO FLOOD
Study concludes river will rise again and again
If anybody doubted director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (and Caddo Parish Sheriff) Steve Prator when he said that it was a matter of “when” not “if” the Red River will flood again, a recent study confirms in spades this prediction.
Titled “An Evaluation of the Causes, Consequences and Potential Solution to Increased Red River Flooding in the Caddo Parish Regions of Northwest Louisiana,” this report is 60-plus pages of findings compiled by candidates for Masters of Public Service & Administration at Texas A&M University.
To put in mildly, it is not a good read. The study reviewed in detail the June 2015 and the March 2016 flooding.
Both floods, plus the more recent flooding of low-lying areas along the Red River, are attributable to heavy rainfall in the river’s floodplain, siltation and urbanization.
The Red River deposits annually 1.6 million cubic yards of wet sediment each year in the navigation channel at Pool 5, which is just north of Shreveport.
The Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) maintains 15 flood control reservoirs along the Red River to assist in managing water flow. These provide the release of specific amounts of water to flow in the river.
This system works well for day-to-day water management. Flooding problems occur during massive storms or with multiple smaller storms across the states that contain the Red River.
The heavy siltation of the Red has not only changed the river’s structure but also raised the level of the river bed. The Corps does not have sufficient funding to maintain needed dredging to complement its system of locks, dams and reservoirs.
Urbanization along the Red also creates additional flooding issues. The removal of vegetation, dispersion of soil, grading of the land surface and construction of drainage networks increase runoff into the river.
Together, siltation and urbanization decrease the capacity of the river to handle flowing water. Thus, the water levels of the river rise, even during normal periods, much less heavy rainfall intervals.
The construction of Lock and Dam #5 at the Port of Shreveport Bossier has also contributed to the build-up of silt in the river bed. The rock dikes built by the Corps to stabilize the river’s channel have also contributed to the silt problem and restricted water flow to the floodplain.
Since the construction of Lock and Dam #5, the river’s elevation at the river gauge at the Railroad Bridge has increased by over two feet.
Bottom line, the storage capacity of the river has decreased due to siltation and urbanization factors. Urbanization can be restricted from further growth. However, reversal of the current drainage into the Red River is not easily mitigated.
Year-round dredging would decrease the likelihood of future flooding. Economically, this is not feasible.
Bottom line, there is no relief in sight. The Red River will flood again, and again, and again.
John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: John@jesettle.com.