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Flood of 1927 Led to Establishment Of the Waterways Experiment Station

The Mississippi River and tributaries are experiencing record flooding this year, surpassing the flood of 1927, which changed the thinking of the federal government and the Corps of Engineers regarding flood control and funding of scientific research on rivers.

From ERDC’s Hydraulic Lab History: The monumental Mississippi River flood of 1927 might well have affected public policy more than any other natural disaster in American history. Causing the deaths of over 300 people, displacing 637,000 others, and inflicting more than $1 billion in property damages (adjusted for inflation since then), the “superflood” awakened the nation to the need for a more diligent flood control effort.

Shocked into action, Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1928, committing the Federal government to a full-scale flood prevention program in the Mississippi Valley and, in vague terms, authorizing the Chief of Engineers to take “whatever steps that were necessary” for effective flood control. The flood also revived interest in establishing a national hydraulic laboratory.

After much discussion, Vicksburg was chosen for this facility, a 147-acre site was selected four miles out of the city. By 1930, research had begun at the new Waterways Experiment Station, now re-named the Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Since 1927 the nation’s flood control has changed from a “levees-only” approach to a multi-faceted program that includes dams, spillways, floodwalls, channels and other methods of flood control.

See related article and photos on page 31

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