Posted by: coastlinesproject | May 3, 2011

Welcome to Our Blog!

Hi and welcome to the Coastlines Blog. We hope to deal with all things coastal whether they be surfing conditions or sea level rise. Right now we have major issues with erosion on all the coasts and problems with siting nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant in Japan.

We even have a happy situation in New England where Tuckernuck Island has been accreting and may soon attach to Nantucket. It is seldom we see this much geological change in such a short period of time and may cause more than a few cocktails to spill on that venerable island.

However I believe right now the most immediate problem facing us are the floods on the Mississippi River. They could lead to a potential Katrina-like catastrophe when they reach New Orleans.

The Army Corps of Engineers is considering releasing more than one third of the flow of the Mississippi down the Atchafalaya River. Right now the equivalent of seven Niagara Falls spills into the Atchafalaya making this the second largest River by volume in the United States.

In 1973 the dam preventing the Mississippi from flowing into the Atchafalaya almost broke. The dam was vibrating so much it ignited coal in a nearby railroad car. If the Corps were to make a mistake, the Mississsippi could divert totally down the Atchafalaya and run the risk of an arm of the Gulf of Mexico transgressing north to inundate both New Orleans and Baton Rouge. At the least the Achafalaya vulnerable floodplains will be flooded.

Sediments from the floods are already clogging the lower Mississippi and may affect shipping. The sediments should also be used to rebuild the marshes to protect New Orleans from future hurricane Storm Surges. See “Just Seconds From the Ocean,” and “The Well From Hell,” for further discussions on this topic .

Please feel free to add your insights and comments. We are looking for reporters who can give us reports on the problems facing their particular geographic areas.

Just to introduce myself, I’m a former consultant for the NOVA series on PBS and the author of over a dozen books about coastal topics. My latest is “The Well From Hell; The BP spill and the Endurance of Big Oil.”  You can see more about my books in the about section of this site and on

Thanks, Bill Sargent



  1. Take a look at this web site page for more information of the Old River Control Structure. “In 1973 the dam preventing the Mississippi from flowing into the Atchafalaya almost broke.”

  2. Scripps has an ibtresting report on sea levels on the west coast, a thirty year trend of lower sea levels, may be turning the corner to become a rise.
    After a Three-decade Hiatus, Sea-level Rise May Return to the West Coast
    Sea level in eastern Pacific may begin to rise due to climate regime shift, say Scripps Oceanography researchers

    Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California, San Diego
    The West Coast of North America has caught a break that has left sea level in the eastern North Pacific Ocean steady during the last few decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate beginning this decade.

    More at:

    This may be of interest to your readers.

  3. The mid-west and southbare not the only areas of the country at risk and already effected by swollen rivers and water bodies. The country side and river bank communities associated with Lake Champlan are being flooded by extra ordinary lake levels.

    And here

  4. I was in Saranac Lake, NY the last few days and the water levels in Lake Flower which is in the middle of Sarnac Lake are at close to or over historic levels. The water levels in 1971 and 1993!were also high, records are spotty as to all time highs but the water levels based on old timer’s memories are up there with the past high waters.

  5. As much of the country, mid-west, north-east and Southern shores deals with flooding. It should be remembered that much of the reason we now see flooding is that over the years we have removed much natural surfaces that would absorb storm water directly in the water table.

    The California State Water Resources Board and UC Davis Extension Land Use and Natural Resource Program have produced a short (30-min) on-line video called “Stow the Flow” which discusses alternatives to direct discharge into storm water drains, but how to create LID landscaping improvements to retain storm water on lots and allow it to migrate tot he water table. By using swales, rain gardens, water absorption subsurface water cells to hold and slowly discharge water into the water table.

    You can watch the film here.

  6. Some more on the record levels for many of the rivers and waterways in the Adirondaks. Certainly not at the levels of the Mississippi and causing the damage that is happening along the Mississippi and its tributaries. But like politics all flooding is local and has local impacts.

    Raquette reached 500-year flood levels

    TUPPER LAKE – Preliminary U.S. Geological Survey records show that water levels on the Raquette River at Piercefield not only broke a nearly 20-year-old record but reached the 500-year flood status as well.

    Reaching the 500-year flood status means there is a 0.2 percent chance of water levels reaching the height they did any given year, according to the USGS.

    The gauge that records data for the USGS at Piercefield is located about a half-mile downstream from the Piercefield dam and several miles downstream from Raquette Pond, which flooded the village of Tupper Lake. Data shows the river at the gauge peaked at 13.4 feet on May 1, breaking the previous record of 12.04 feet that was recorded on April 27, 1993.

    The records for that location date back to 1908, giving the record more credence.

    “The longer the period of data, the more meaningful the statistic is,” said USGS Supervisory Hydrologist Gerard Butch. “That’s why at Piercefield and North Creek, where there’s over a hundred years of record, that’s pretty meaningful.”

    The Hudson River at North Creek peaked at 13.65 feet on April 28, breaking the previous record of 12.14 feet from New Year’s Eve in 1948. Data for that gauge goes back to 1907.

    Two gauges downstream from Piercefield also recorded historic levels. At South Colton, the gauge hit 11.27 feet, breaking the record of 9.8 from May 11, 1971. At Raymondville, water rose to 8.72 feet, breaking the April 5, 1974 high of 8.4 feet.

    Overall, 16 USGS gauges in northern New York recorded historical highs this spring. But in a chart produced by the USGS for the period between April 27 and May 2, only the Piercefield location reached 500-year flood status.

    While the Raquette River hit historic highs, the USGS gauges on the West Branch of the AuSable River in Lake Placid and the East Branch of the AuSable in AuSable Forks fell short of past peak levels. In Lake Placid, the river hit 11.42 feet on April 28, falling short of the high of 12.20 feet on Sept. 22, 1938. There are no gauges on the Saranac River near Saranac Lake.

    One reason the Piercefield level was so high is that area of the Raquette River is fed by more than one major water system. It is part of the Raquette River chain, which starts at Blue Mountain Lake in the central Adirondacks. Plus, the river receives water from the Bog River and the Cold River.

    All of those rivers had higher-than-normal water levels due to a combination of warm temperatures, heavy rains, saturated soils and a massive snowmelt all occurring at once.

    In the 48 hours following 7 a.m. on April 26, it rained 2.75 inches in Tupper Lake, according to meteorologist Andy Nash of the National Weather Service in Burlington. It also reached a high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit on April 27. Those factors led to a massive snowmelt.

    An estimated 2 to 3 inches of water was released from the High Peaks region from snowmelt between April 26 and 29, Nash said.

    To put things in perspective, the average monthly rainfall for April in Tupper Lake is 2.87 inches. This April about 8 inches of rain fell, breaking the previous record of 6.2 inches set in 2002.

    “It was all that rain at the end of the month, along with warm temperatures, that melted a lot of snow,” Nash said. “It was the quick snowmelt along with the heavy rain that really did us in.”

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