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About one and a half billion dollars is planned for the relocation of control structures, upgrading guide levees, and developing the Atchafalaya basin as a wetlands resource in the coming decade. What would be the engineering, cultural, environmental, and economic consequences should the Mississippi River be diverted through its Atchafalaya distributary? Perhaps the answer is that the future of southern and coastal Louisiana would be better served if the river were not shackled with artificial and costly engineering restraints and were permitted to choose the shorter, natural path to the sea. This paper proposes an in-depth comparison of situations which: (a) maintain the status quo, (b) consider the effects of a gradual, planned increase in the rate of diversion, and (c) consider the effects of a rapid, uncontrolled diversion during an immense flood or series of floods.
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