cover image Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s Waterways

Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s Waterways

Tyler J. Kelley. Avid Reader, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8704-9

Journalist Kelley debuts with an illuminating look at the people and policies working to tame America’s rivers. Kelley’s focus is on the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers, and the challenges facing the Army Corps of Engineers as the rivers change and as the dams, dikes, and levees designed to keep them in place become obsolete. “A long line of American leaders from both parties have lacked the will, power, or imagination to build what the country needs,” Kelley writes, and traces policies from an 1824 bill that expanded the Corps’ authority to Trump’s unrealized promise to spend billions on infrastructure. Kelley introduces such players as Luther Helland, the master of the “most decrepit” lock and dam in the U.S., built on the Ohio River in 1929; Lester Goodin, a fifth-generation farmer who made use of a breached levee to grow trees along the Mississippi; and Mitch Jurisich, an oysterman in Louisiana who worries he’ll lose his business if the Mississippi is diverted to prevent coastal erosion. Along with the meticulous reporting and insightful analysis, Kelley considers a series of remedies, including some drawn from successful flood control programs in the Netherlands. Anyone concerned with the myriad issues surrounding the manipulation of waterways will want to take a look. Renee Zuckerbrot, Massie & McQuilkin. (Apr.)