Designing the Bayous
The Control of Water in the Atchafalaya Basin, 1800-1995
Natural History - Environmental History
6.125 x 9.25, 496 pp.
73 b&w photos., 23 maps.
Pub Date: 06/02/2004
Gulf Coast Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Price:        $39.95 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Designing the Bayous

The Control of Water in the Atchafalaya Basin, 1800-1995

By Martin Reuss

Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin is one of the most dynamic and critical environments in the country. It sustains the nation’s last cypress-tupelo wetland and provides a habitat for many species of animals. Endowed with natural gas and oil fields, the basin also supports a large commercial fisheries industry. Perhaps most crucial, it remains a primary component of the plan to control the Mississippi River and relieve flooding in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and other communities in the lower river valley.

The continuing health of the basin is a reflection not of nature, but of the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With levee building and clearing in the nineteenth century and damming, dredging, and floodway construction in the twentieth, the basin was converted from a vast forested swamp into a designer wetland, where human aspirations and nature maintained a precarious equilibrium.

Originally published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers primarily for internal distribution, this environmental and political history of the Atchafalaya Basin is an unflinching account of the transformation of an area that has endured perhaps more human manipulation than any other natural environment in the nation. Martin Reuss provides a new preface to bring us up-to-date on the state of the basin, which remains both an engineering contrivance and natural wonder.

MARTIN REUSS is a senior historian in the Office of History of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He lives in Woodbridge, Virginia.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . a meticulous work of archival scholarship, an interpretive book that exposes intrabureaucratic conflict and scientific dispute.” --Environmental History

“. . . a fascinating and well-researched history . . . an important contribution to the growing literature about the environmental history of the Lower Mississippi Valley and a valuable reference for any reader interested in the history of internal improvements undertaken in the region.” --Journal of Southern History

“Well researched, well annotated, helpfully illustrated, and smoothly written, Designing the Bayous will be regarded as the comprehensive work on the evolution of water resource management policy in the Atchafalaya region.” --Professional Geographer

“The book’s strength comes from its authoritative, minute detail and references, and in the author’s strenuous efforts to stay objective through battles between his agency and environmentalists.” --Choice

“After reading Reuss’ book, you will surely have a greater understanding of how humans have shaped this place, and perhaps you too will want to see firsthand the nation’s premier “designer wetland.”” --Historical Geography, #33

“…a significant contribution to environmental history and is recommended reading for anyone seeking a better grasp of Louisiana’s endless rivers-and-wetlands difficulties.” --The Journal of Southern History


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