Lead: In the 1870s New Orleans was a tiny seaport with a big problem - too much mud.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Mississippi River cuts through North America like a knife. It provides transportation and communication, fresh water and rich top soil to the valley bottoms. For those who live in the continental heartland it is an ever present friend and sometimes deadly enemy. Below New Orleans, however, the river's bounty can be too much of a good thing. As it flows south the Mississippi and its hundreds of tributaries carry millions of tons of dirt. Most of it flows out into the Gulf, but in the middle of the 1800s, much of it was deposited in a series of sand bars across the mouth of the River south of New Orleans. It was constantly creating new land but also blocking up the shipping channel. On one surveying trip in 1859, General Winfield Scott found 38 ships in the river waiting to enter the Gulf, 21 ships in the gulf waiting to enter the river, three ships aground on the Sand Bar, 50 ships in the city waiting to sail, one of which had been around for eighty-three days. As ships grew larger, more and more traffic had to avoid the port of New Orleans and transit into the growing regions of the Mississippi Valley. Something had to be done.

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