A TOUR OF THE AMERICAN SOUTH
By Mike Dutton
As part of a study tour of the southern United States in September/ October 1995, sponsored by the Foundation for Technical Advancement of Local Government Engineering in New South Wales, I visited several Municipal and consulting offices and the US Army Corps of Engineers, and inspected various engineering, flood control and coastal works in the Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi areas. I also attended the annual (1995) conference of the American Public Works Association in Dallas, Texas and visited many interesting areas as I drove throughout the southwest.
After a very exhausting and confusing 30 hour trip from a frosty Kempsey in northern NSW, via Sydney, Los Angeles and Dallas, I arrived in Houston, Texas during a record heat wave.
Texas, with an area of 700,000 sq km, is the second largest state in the U.S. and has a population of around 18 Million. For comparison New South Wales has an area of about 800,000 sq km and a population of 6 Million.
Houston City downtown skyline.
Following a brief acclimatisation, I collected my hire car and took to the freeways. Although I was to drive, without major incident, over 4000 kilometres in three weeks, I never really became confident on the right side of the road, in a left hand drive car, and often confused the gear lever, wipers and blinker (earning the ire and a few honks from my fellow motorists ....“Git a bus bud!!). The high volume and speed of the traffic and number of lanes (up to 12) was intimidating, and it was another two weeks before I began to overtake others and drive like a Texan. Athough the speed limit in the city was 50 mph (80kph) most travelled at 70mph (110kph).
Having a spare day before my first appointment, I visited the nearby Johnston Space Centre were the “Endeavour” shuttle mission was being controlled. Live interviews with the astronauts were beamed directly into an auditorium and we were able to watch them in weightless space as they went about their work. Full size shuttle and other vehicle mock-ups were on display along with photographic and memorabilia items.
On Monday morning, after air-conditioned bus to city on freeway ($1 for 20 miles, park & ride), I visited Houston City offices and met Manager Road & Street Construction, Ken Korb, Director of Public Works & Engineering, Jimmie Schindewolf and others. The Department of Public Works and Engineering has 5500 employees and a budget of $660 Million and is responsible for maintaining the city's infrastructure. As their own literature states -
“From the streets and bridges we drive on to the water we drink; from the wastewater we dispose of, to the construction of homes, apartments, high-rises and the protection of the neighborhoods where citizens live and work, the department's ultimate responsibility is to assure that we live in a safe, environmentally sound community.”
The Public Works and Engineering Director is responsible for the general management of eight groups/ divisions within the department, which includes Public Utilities (water and sewer), Financial Management and Resources, Employee Relations/Affirmative Action, Engineering, Construction and Real Estate, Capital Projects Effectiveness, Maintenance and Right of Way, Code Enforcement, Neighborhood Protection, and the Safe School Sidewalk Program. He also serves as the Mayor's Chief of Staff, a position that includes the overall management of four additional departments: Solid Waste Management, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Development, and Aviation.
Houston City covers an area of more than 500 sq. miles (1300 sq. km) with City population of 1.6 Million (area population is 4 Million, fourth largest city in US). (Brisbane City by comparison has an administrative area of 375 sq. miles and an area population of 1.4 Million.) Ken Korb has 50 direct staff, (10 engineers, 40 inspectors) and a budget of $50 Million. Most construction and major design is done by contractors. Staff inspectors check contract work against specifications and standard conditions. New roads are mostly reinforced concrete on lime-stabilised clay bases. The natural clay is highly plastic. The city suffers the usual contract problems with small operators underpricing and trying for extras, conflict with utility plant, etc and often accepts higher bids by larger more reliable operator. Jobs of $3 to $5 Million not uncommon. Minor maintenance and emergency work is done by small day-labour staff. We inspected several jobs - one a drainage pipeline, another a street reconstruction. Most major highways are responsibility of State Highway Department but affect local streets in some way, necessitating work.
Mr. Schindewolf, as he was appointed by the Mayor is considered a political appointment. In some areas many public officials such as clerks, judges, sheriffs and even surveyors and engineers are elected by popular vote. Texas (as in most of the USA) has a very complicated political system, with more than 20 city administrations, 254 counties with overall and separate administration, county tax assessors, and countless school and health boards and districts, plus State and Federal governments, all with separate police, taxes, regulations and priorities. “There are too many jurisdictions” according to Jimmie who wears the full Texan rig including boots, belt buckle, string tie and large hat.
There is a constant struggle for construction funds from the Harris County Tax Assessor who collects land taxes, the State who collect 8.25% sales taxes on all items and Federal Treasurers who collect income tax. Much of these funds are directed for political purposes to be spent on police and fire brigades. The City often raises funds for major construction projects by issuing “bonds” to the public. Jimmie was very interested in Australia, as were most Texans. Austin University has a School of Australian Studies (what do they teach... two-up, cricket ?)
Private Design Consultant
I visited engineering consultant Jim Thompson’s office, which is claimed to be the “most advanced civil design office in Texas”. He is an advisor to many cities on GIS and GPS use. We ran through a typical job, the widening/ reconstruction of an urban street for city. Design steps are:-
- surveyor places co-ordinated marks at regular points both sides (every 100m)
- aerial photo run to produce plan at 1:200 of existing, then “rubber-banded” to fit known points.
- this ortho-photo used by city to present to council, residents and for design concept,
- draftsman on digitiser used to input raw above-ground details, houses, trees, kerbs, etc. Preliminary plans produced.
- surveyor sent back to check details and clarify points, under trees, underground, pits, pipes, services, etc. Global Positioning System (GPS) used to co-ordinate if no other available (this is often).
- final working design produced using Microstation or other software.
This was a very impressive and interesting design office. Jim stated that GIS was slow in developing in Texas, but was becoming more useful for future planning, etc. There were reported to be problems with GIS implementation in Houston due to late start, amount of data, the plethora of jurisdictions and reluctance of some authorities to participate.
Missouri City, Texas
With Ken, I visited the offices of Missouri City in the outer Houston suburbs and met Public Works Director, Tom Wendorf. Impressive use of GIS in this newer area, with maps of problem soils, flooding, future works, “zonings”, land use, etc. A recent cost/ benefit study for GIS implementation had returned a BCR of 2.95. They do not have fixed planning zones as we know them, and in theory any land can be used for any purpose with permission. This lack of planning restriction assists the steady city growth. Missouri City has tried to implement “zones” for commercial, residential but they are not popular. A developer wishing to build a shopping centre selects raw land near dwellings or on a main road, and applies for a permit. At the whim of the City council this may be granted subject to conditions and perhaps “impact fees” (similar to Sect. 94). This “city” has 100,000 population, an ever expanding area as boundaries change, and a staff of only 15. All outside work is done by contract. Water supply and electricity is private. Sewer by county authorities.
Much of Missouri City is prone to flooding from the Brazos River and other minor streams (bayous). The city is involved in flood mitigation and protection to gain the benefits of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), whereby reductions in flood insurance premiums are available depending on the level of local flood protection and flood plain management provided by the community. Flood insurance is available from the federal government under a program established by the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973. The program was opened to participation by private insurers in 1983, and flood insurance is now being offered by more than 300 private companies.This program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) who regularly inspect the flood protection measures to ensure maintenance and property protection is adequate.
Also at Houston City, I met Planning & Development Manager (Susan Norman), and discussed planning issues. Lack of “zones” makes planning difficult, use of “deed restrictions”, some areas now have vague future plans. Need for formal “zones” being realised. Computer Manager (Stan Watson), demonstrated GIS operation. Data input by consultants underway, use of aerial photos and digitising for rough plan which is then cleaned up to include houses. City has $1.8 Million annual budget for GIS data capture. Metamap and Arcinfo software is used.
The Houston Astrodome
Houston Astrodome - The first fully enclosed, air conditioned football stadium in the world.
I attended a game of football in the Houston Astrodome in the afternoon. Despite the 96F degrees heat outside powerful airconditioning kept the inside temperature to a comfortable playing and watching level for the 40,000 attending. The Astrodome was the world’s first fully enclosed stadium and is now 25 years old and in need of replacement due to changes in spectator and television interests (and the cost of running that air-conditioning) in that time. Replacement cost of around $100 Million was mentioned. The facility is owned by the City and leased to the owners of the professional football team, the Oilers, and the professional baseball team, the Astros. Football is played of course on “astroturf” which is a little thicker than a synthetic grass tennis court carpet laid over a timber floor. In the game I saw Pittsburgh beat the Oilers 34-17, although I thought they had the benefit of the breeze from the air conditioning in the second half. The real star was the dog trained to retrieve the plastic “puck” after each kick-off.
Houston as stated, is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the largest city in the South and Southwest. It is an inland seaport at the head of the Houston Ship Channel, 92 km northwest of the Gulf of Mexico, is the major financial and commercial centre of Texas and the southern U.S. and one of the nation's leading manufacturing centres. The ship channel is terribly polluted and known to catch on fire!! Situated near a major petroleum and natural-gas field, Houston is a principal center of the national petroleum industry. Other important manufactures include paper products, electrical and electronic machinery, and iron and steel, as well as milled rice, which is the dominant crop of the surrounding agricultural region.Also important to the economy is the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, the mission control headquarters for manned U.S. space flights. Houston is served by six major railroad lines, nine major highways and two airports, The Houston Intercontinental Airport, in the northern part of the city and the older William P. Hobby Airport, southeast of the city center, which handles domestic flights.
Houston is situated on the flat Gulf Coastal Plain in an area drained by short, sluggish streams, known locally as bayous. Rising dramatically above the plain are the glass skyscrapers of the central business district, or downtown. The current downtown area (like many large American cities) is almost totally devoid of nightlife or “heart”, being active for business during the day only. Air-conditioned overhead walkways and tunnels link these modern buildings. It is said that prior to the introduction of air-conditioning 25 years ago life in Houston was miserable. The spread of wealthy neighbourhoods has maintained a western and northwestern course; middle-class residences and commercial/ light industrial districts have developed between the two areas. The city is very widely spread and although making attempts to expand its public bus system, public transportation facilities are very limited and the private automobile remains the primary means of transportation. The freeway system is excellent. This city spread is encouraged by low cost of fuel (around $1US per gallon or 25c per litre) low cost of construction materials and lack of planning zones.
Harrisburg the first European settlement in the Houston area, was destroyed (1836) by the Mexican General Santa Anna, shortly before his defeat by the Texan army led by General Sam Houston at San Jacinto. Texas then became independent of Mexico and a separate Republic until accepted into the Union in 1845. That same year, a new settlement was laid out, named in honour of the victorious General. The community served as the capital of the Republic of Texas from 1837 to 1839. Houston was incorporated as a city in 1839 and until 1900 grew slowly as the transportation center of southeastern Texas, taking advantage of the confluence of rail and water routes. Modern industrial growth began in earnest after the discovery, in 1901, of major petroleum deposits in nearby salt domes and the completion, in 1914, of the Houston Ship Channel. The construction of refineries and other petroleum-related industries began during World War I; further industrial expansion was spurred by World War II. The absence of strict zoning laws and a positive attitude toward industrialisation by local leaders have encouraged the city's rapid growth since World War II.
Modern-day Texans are fiercely proud of their independant beginnings and fly their “Lone Star” flag at every opportunity. There are regular calls to secede from the United States and bumper stickers urging to “Reform the Republic”.
South of Houston the source of much of the cities’ wealth was apparent, with oil wells at regular spacing and on every available piece of land. I was advised that after almost 100 years of production, output was slowing from these old fields, and they are “rested” periodically.
I drove south on the I (interstate) -45 to Galveston to visit the district headquaters of the US Army Corp of Engineers. The work of the Corps is divided between military and civil projects and staff includes a great many civilian experts. The program currently includes construction for the army and air force and environmental restoration of areas contaminated by toxic wastes. The civil program centers on development of water resources, including navigation improvement, hydroelectric power, flood control, recreation, and conservation of fish and wildlife. The Corps also provides emergency assistance in the wake of disasters such as floods. Its traditional combat engineering functions, such as clearance of minefields, construction of field fortifications, and erection of bridges in theatres of operations, are carried out by engineers assigned to various U.S. Army combat units. The Corp have been involved in every US military conflict since their inception including the Gulf War and the current conflict in Bosnia.
US Army Corp of Engineers, Galveston Headquarters.
Galveston is linked with mainland Texas by causeways and a bridge over the Gulf Intra-coastal Water Way (GIWW) . This water way is a major shipping lane allowing full size ocean-going vessels to travel inland and parallel to the coast from Mexico to Florida. Much of the Corps work in the Galveston district involves maintenance dredging of the GIWW. This work is virtually continuous over the 600km length of the canal within the district, and is carried out by both private contractors and Corp machinery. At the attractive headquarters building, I met David Petit, an environmental specialist engaged in planning future dredging work in the district. David demonstrated on computer the use of infra-red satellite imagery to indicate those areas requiring dredging and adjacent areas available for filling. The satellite images quite clearly showed different vegetation types enabling sensitive wetland areas to be avoided. By using this imagery, some base surveys and mapping software called “Erdas”, David was able to create a graphical information base showing volumes requiring dredging, volumes for filling and other details such as vegetation or environmental constraints. It appears authorities such as the Corp of Engineers are given general environmental licensing for this work rather than obtain individual environmental assessment and approval over each area. Mr. Ron Myers demonstrated civil design software “Inroads” and “Modelview” used to design road, bridge and canal work and to create impressive and realistic plans for public exhibition.
I also met the District Engineer, Colonel Robert B. Gatlin and Public Affairs Chief Ken Bonham who described several current projects and detailed the operations of the Corp. One interesting project was the restoration and protection of Sargents Beach in southern Texas, where constant erosion had destroyed six rows of houses and threatened the levee of the GIWW. With massive amounts of imported material, and a reinforced seawall 5m high and 12 kilometres long, the Corp planned to reinforce the levee and prevent collapse. This project was expected to cost $US 62 Million over three years.
Trolley Car, Galveston, Texas
Galveston City in southeastern Texas is at the northeastern end of Galveston Island which juts out into the Gulf of Mexico, and has a population of about 60,000.
The modern city dates from a settlement established here in 1817 by the pirate Jean Laffite although Spanish and Mexican explorers visited from the 1500’s. The town was platted (surveyed) in 1836 and served briefly that year as capital of the Republic of Texas. During the American Civil War, the city, which was a Confederate supply port, changed hands several times. After a hurricane in 1900, which took about 6000 lives, a 16-km long seawall was constructed. Other hurricanes in 1961 and 1983 caused much damage here. Following the storm of 1900, much of the settled island including roads and houses was raised by up to 1.5m by pumping dredged material from the bay. The city is a commercial fishing center and a popular vacation spot, with many interesting Victorian buildings and long stretches of (grey) beach nearby on the Gulf of Mexico.
From Galveston I drove through southeast Texas (Winnie, Beaumont, Orange) to the city of Lafayette in south-central Louisiana. The area is low lying and swampy being in the delta of the Mississippi River and bisected by many small streams and bayous. This is the capital of the “Acadiana” region, populated largely by Creoles, descendants of early French and Spanish settlers, and the Cajuns, who trace their ancestry to the French-Canadian Acadians expelled from eastern Canada in the mid-18th century. Many people speak a French dialect, and enjoy an interesting culture of spicy food, music and crafts.
There are many magnificent plantation houses throughout the country-side, recalling the sugar cane and cotton based origins of agriculture. Early plantations were worked by slaves and remnants of slave quarters still remain. Today much of the area produces oil and natural gas from the wetlands and offshore to allow the State to be the second largest mineral producer in the U.S. (behind Texas). Large quantities of salt and sulfur are also produced.
Louisiana entered the Union in 1812 and was a founding member of the Confederate States of America. The state's name derives from that given by the French explorer Robert de La Salle who founded a colony in 1682, in honor of King Louis XIV. In 1711 Louisiana was made an independent French colony which struggled against the difficult conditions and native Indian opposition. In 1763, as a result of European wars, France ceded Louisiana east of the Mississippi to Great Britain, the region west of the river with the city of New Orleans having been ceded to Spain by a secret treaty in the preceding year. With inland inhabitants demanding an outlet for their produce and the Spanish restricting navigation of the Mississippi River a situation arose that might have led to war, but resulted instead in the United States purchase of Louisiana (the Louisiana Purchase) from the French in 1803. During the Civil War in 1862, New Orleans was occupied by Union troops, and all slaves were freed by law. The majority of white residents were slow in accepting the new conditions, and bitter feeling and turbulence marked the political scene. This strife continued for many years.
Louisiana, with an area of 135,000 sq km has a population of about 4.5 Million. The state's largest cities are New Orleans; Baton Rouge, the capital; Shreveport; Lafayette; and Kenner. Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes, which are similar to the counties of other states. Almost all parishes are governed by a police jury, whose members are elected to 4-year terms. There are more than 300 municipalities in the state.
The City of Lafayette has a population of around 100,000 is the seat of Lafayette Parish and situated on the Vermilion River (which is linked to the Intracoastal Waterway). Situated in a productive farm area at the intersection of the main I-10 and I-49 highways, it is an important service center for nearby petroleum and natural gas production. The University of Southwestern Louisiana (LSU) is located in the city along with the essential enclosed football stadium (the cathedral-like “Cajundome”). A concerted effort has been made to bring commercial activity and shoppers back to the ailing downtown area. As in other cities the drift to the suburbs and ribbon development along highways has caused inner city vacancies and social problems. Extensive landscaping, colourful bunting and emphasis on the cultural heritage has been employed with apparent success. There are local concerns regarding acid-sulphate soils in the area, and moves to identify and manage this problem.
I drove south to the town of New Iberia to meet the Public Works Director of Iberia Parish, Mr. Leroy Landray. The Parish has a population of 10,000 and is an entirely rural area surrounding the town, which has a similar population and seperate administration. Leroy is not qualified (“but experienced”) and controls 33 Parish employees and many contractors. The Parish has 50 miles of gravel road, 350 miles of asphalt or concrete road, 650 miles of drains and 8 parks to maintain. All new work is contracted out, although they hadn’t built a new road since 1977 due to lack of funds. Parish employees maintain assets and equipment. A lot of manual work, mowing, fencing, etc. is done by “trustee” prisoners under the control of the Sheriff and Leroy. The nearest decent roadmaking gravel is carted from 125miles away at great expense, so lesser local materials are often used. Some funds for works come from taxes on oil and gas producers, or local land taxes with the majority from State treasury distribution of sales tax. There is no local road tax. Leroy is also required to control building developments and flood levels, with most of the Parish at around 3m above sea level. Leroy claimed he was not a political appointment, although I noticed his family name was prominent in the area. The area seemed extremely poor in contrast to the neighbouring town.
“The Shadows on the Teche” mansion, New Iberia, Louisiana.
In New Iberia, I visited the magnificent antebellum homestead “Shadows on the Teche”, which was built in 1834 as the home of a prominent landowner and has been fully restored. The main house, servants and slave quarters, water supply system and gardens are said to be one of the finest examples of southern architecure and evoke memories of “Gone with the Wind”. There are many other excellent plantation homes in the area, many still in private ownership on functioning farms or used for conventions or resorts.
From New Iberia, I continued southeast to the Mississippi River and on to New Orleans. Louisiana has a markedly riverine environment. The Mississippi River and its major tributaries, which include the Red, Ouachita, and Atchafalaya rivers, have deposited so much material that their beds are now higher than much of the surrounding land. That land must be protected by nearly 3200 km of levees and other flood-control devices. Natural flood-control drainage takes place within a series of bayous (swampy outlets of rivers.)
The Mississippi River and Flood Control
The Mississippi (Algonquian Misi sipi, “big river”) river of central United States is one of the longest rivers of North America. The Mississippi River system is wholly within the U.S., excepting the headwaters of the Missouri River, the main Mississippi tributary, that extend into Canada. The Mississippi is exceeded in length by the Missouri and Mackenzie rivers, but it discharges a greater volume of water than any other river on the North American continent. It drains most of the territory between the Rocky and Allegheny mountains, an area of about 3,256,000 sq km In addition to the Missouri, the Mississippi is fed by the Red, Arkansas, and Ohio rivers and by about 250 other tributaries. The total length of the Mississippi is 3750 km, and the total navigable length of all the rivers in the system is about 25,894 km.
The magnificent Mississippi River
The Mississippi rises in northwestern Minnesota, about 512 m above sea level. At Minneapolis, where it drops 20 m over the Falls of Saint Anthony, the river is more than 305 m (1000 ft) wide. This point is the head of the river navigation. Around obstructions to navigation at several points, the U.S. government has constructed dams and locks. From the mouth of the Ohio River the Mississippi is about 1370 m wide, but as it approaches the Red River, it narrows to about 910 m (3000 ft), and at New Orleans, Louisiana, is 760 m (2500 ft) wide. The depth of the channel south from the Ohio is between 15 and 30 m (50 and 100 ft). A system of storage reservoirs has been constructed near the headwaters of the Mississippi, whereby navigable depths are maintained in the channel during periods of low water and flood discharge is controlled to some extent.
Levees or embankments, largely built by the federal government after a disastrous flood in 1927, now extend for more than 3200 km. Their height varies from 4.6 to 7.6 m mostly with grassed banks and service roads. In areas of restricted space or high velocity, concrete or other revetment is provided. Between the Ohio and the Red rivers extraordinary floods, rising about 15 m (about 50 ft), occur about once in ten years and do immense damage. During the flood of 1927 the river reached a maximum height at Cairo, Illinois, of 17.2 m (56.4 ft) and covered approximately 72,520 sq km (approximately 28,000 sq mi). Record-breaking floods in 1993 destroyed entire towns and farmland areas, closed bridges, and destroyed levees in eight states.
Mississippi River levee bank.
Levees have confined the river to a relatively narrow channel to provide the depth necessary for navigation. Maintaining that depth has required repeated dredging of the channel, adding to the already large cost of sustaining the levee system. Floods in the Mississippi Valley havedemonstrated that levees alone do not provide sufficient protection against flooding on a large river, and other methods of flood control, including dams and floodways, are now in use on the Mississippi River.
The highway (I-10) from Baton Rouge to New Orleans gives an indication of just how difficult it must be to provide infrastructure in this very wet environment. The concrete highway for most of its 130 km length is a viaduct on either side of a canal and is raised high above it on driven concrete piles and columns.
New Orleans in southeastern Louisiana is a famous port on the Mississippi River, north of its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico and has a central city population of about 500,000. Long known for its unique and vivid cultural blend, good food, music and entertainment, New Orleans is now a major commercial and tourism center of the South and one of the busiest ports in the U.S. The city's economy has traditionally been dominated by shipping, including both river barge and ocean vessel traffic. Extensive dock facilities are located along the Mississippi River, the Gulf Intracoastal Water Way, and the Mississippi-Gulf Outlet (a deep channel opened in 1963).
The city has a very colourful history from early Indian village, to French territory, Spanish territory, transfer to the United States with the Louisiana purchase, state capital, the target of British attack during the 1815 “Battle of New Orleans” and the subject of battles by navies of Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War. The precinct of the original settlement is distinguishable today as the French Quarter around Bourbon Street where the picturesque houses and historic buildings that line the narrow streets are built in a style that combines French and Spanish influences.
Dixieland jazz is still played on Basin and Bourbon streets, where it originated in the early 20th century. “Louis Armstrong Park” honours one of the city’s famed musicians. Others include “Fats” Domino and the Neville brothers. The modern commercial district is centred on Canal Street, with The Louisiana Superdome, a large enclosed stadium that is home to the New Orleans Saints professional football team nearby.
Below the Red River, from Baton Rouge down to New Orleans the Mississippi flows through numerous bayous into the Gulf of Mexico. The main channel of the river runs southeast and divides into a delta of several passes. The yearly discharge of the Mississippi into the gulf is nearly 600 cu km (about 145 cu mi) of water. The sediment carried is estimated at about 300 million cu m (about 10.6 billion cu ft). To overcome the silting caused by these vast deposits and the constant changes caused by floods, a system of jetties at the South Pass was built. The construction was begun in 1875 and has proved highly successful, a depth exceeding 9 m (30 ft) having been maintained. Continual dredging of some areas is also required.
Riverfront New Orleans
Flood protection of New Orleans is provided by riverside levees up to about the 1 in 100 year level. Because much of the older areas are below present river level, a system of sumps and pumps is employed for local drainage. Local floods and building subsidence are common problems faced by both the City and the US Army Corp of Engineers.
From New Orleans, I returned north along the Mississippi to Baton Rouge the capital of Louisiana State. Baton Rouge has a population of about 230,000 and is a major port on the Mississippi River. The city's industrial development has been spurred by its strategic location at the head of deepwater navigation on the Mississippi, and today it has facilities for handling both oceangoing vessels and river barges. It is a major petrochemicals-manufacturing center and also an important distribution point for the large quantities of local produce. Landmarks include the 34-story State Capitol (1932), the Old State Capitol (1849, restored 1882), and the Old Governor's Mansion. The city contains Louisiana State University.
Huey P. Long Bridge over Mississippi River at Baton Rouge.
In 1928 Huey Pierce Long was elected governor of the state. His program for vast public expenditures on buildings and bridges and cronyism so antagonized his political opponents that they unsuccessfully moved for his impeachment. The failure of these proceedings strengthened Long's position, and he assumed virtual dictatorial powers. In 1935 Long, then a U.S. senator but still dominating Louisiana politics, was assassinated. The Long political machine, however, continued to function and his brother, Earl Kemp Long, was three times governor of Louisiana and Huey's son, Russell Billiu Long represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate for 38 years before declining to appear on the ballot in 1986.
At Baton Rouge City, I met Jo-roy Hamilton, Assistant Director of the Department of Public Works, and Bryan Harmon, Drainage Engineer.
Morganza Spillway, Mississippi River north of Baton Rouge.
One example I inspected is the Morganza Spillway north of Baton Rouge, which contains 125 steel flood gates. During peak floods the gates are opened to discharge water onto low-lying land and designated floodways to reduce the possibility of levees around Baton Rouge being overtopped. Another control method is “fuse plug” levees; sections of specially designed banks intended to “blow out” at the critical level to allow discharge of floodwaters.
Historical landmarks reflect the colorful past of the state, which was a territory of both France and Spain before becoming a United States territory in 1803. The Vieux Carré Historic District (French Quarter) in New Orleans is noted for 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including the huge Saint Louis Cathedral (1794). Jean Laffite National Historical Park and Preserve includes the site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815).
Sports and Recreation
Hunting, fishing, and water sports are the main recreational activities. The annual Sugar Bowl postseason college football game attracts thousands of spectators. New Orleans supports a major league football team. The leading attraction of Louisiana, however, is the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans each spring. This celebration includes parades, street dancing, and costume balls.
Farming accounts for about 1% of the yearly gross state product in Louisiana. The state has about 30,000 farms, which average 119 hectares (293 acres) in size. Livestock products make up about one-third of the annual farm income; beef cattle are raised in most parts of the state. The principal crops are cotton, soybeans, rice, and sugarcane. The major cotton-growing areas are in the Mississippi bottomlands and in the valleys of tributary rivers. Soybeans are grown throughout the state. Sugarcane and rice are grown primarily in the hot, wet lowlands of the south. Other farm products include hay, sweet potatoes, corn, sorghum, and horticultural crops.
Louisiana has rich coastal and inland fishing waters, and although fishing accounts for less than 1% of the annual gross state product, the annual catch (by weight) landed in Louisiana is greater than that of any other state, except Alaska. More than three-quarters of the catch is menhaden. Shrimp is the second largest catch by volume but is first in value. Oysters and blue crabs are also significant. Pisciculture (fish farming) is important in the production of crayfish and catfish.
Each year more than 24 million visitors produce more than $4.7 billion for the Louisiana economy. The hub of this tourism industry is New Orleans. The quiet old-world charm of the French Quarter is periodically disturbed by celebrations at the time of Mardi Gras, the Sugar Bowl football game, and major events at the Superdome. The state is also noted for its Gulf and freshwater fishing and for its excellent hunting opportunities, as well as Thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing. Louisiana maintains a system of 26 parks and recreation areas.
Louisiana is served by a network of 94,340 km (about 58,620 mi) of federal, state, and local roads. About 1400 km (about 870 mi) of interstate highways cross the southern and northern part of the state. It is also served by about 4010 km (about 2490 mi) of operated Class I railroad track. Louisiana has more than 8000 km (more than 5000 mi) of navigable waterways. New Orleans's location near the mouth of the Mississippi River, with access to the agricultural and industrial heartlands of the U.S., has helped to make it one of the nation's busiest ports. Other ports include Baton Rouge and Lake Charles.
In 1928 Huey Pierce Long was elected governor of the state. His program for vast public expenditures so antagonized His political opponents that they began impeachment proceedings in 1929. The failure of these proceedings strengthened Long's position, and he assumed virtual dictatorial powers. In 1935 Long, then a U.S. senator but still dominating Louisiana politics, was assassinated. The Long political machine, however, continued to function.
With the rapid expansion of Louisiana's shipbuilding and petrochemical industries during World War II and a sharp increase in oil and gas production, the port of New Orleans assumed major importance. Shipping gained redoubled momentum with the 1963 opening of a 122-km (76-mi) canal, a shortcut between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. New Orleans also became a rocket-production site for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
School desegregation, begun in 1959, was accelerated by a 1963 plan calling for the desegregation of a lower high school grade each year. Although Louisiana resisted desegregation, under the Civil Rights Act of 1960 the number of blacks qualified to vote increased. In 1967 Ernest N. Morial (1929-89) was elected to the state legislature, the first black to join that body since the Reconstruction period. Ten years later Morial won election as the first black mayor in the history of New Orleans.