February 7, 1812 an eruption deep within the New Madrid(MO) fault forced the “Big brown god”(Mark Twain’s description of the river) to flow north. Six years of discussions over the KXL pipeline ultimately led to rejection of a multi-billion dollar project. An overdue disruption within the New Madrid would splinter the rejected KXL pipeline. Thousands of gallons of tar sands oil might ruin the Ogalalla aquifer which nourishes the heartland area. That aquifer contains enough water to cover the US heartland with forty feet of water, hydrologists estimate. Yes, the Mississippi did flow north in the past.
Mixing metaphors, we can move from the mighty Mississippi to an Interstate highway in Louisiana. Five star General Dwight Eisenhower was taken on a tour of the national system intended to double as runways for US Air Force planes in a time of crisis during the Cold War. The battle toughened officer was reduced to tears and exclaimed to his driver: “These roads were intended to GO AROUND ,NOT THROUGH cities. You have this all wrong!”
A December 1st, lackluster press conference was held in the Rosa Parks center. Former Mayor Joey Durel, City Council member Kenneth Boudreau were present as a government official explained the TIGER grant of $300,000 to stimulate economic growth along the I-49 corridor through Lafayette. A few in attendance were mute during the passive gathering. The hour-long presentation was a directive from top echelons of governance manifesting unanimity over a road project that was under discussion for decades . I-49 corridor is now a project awaiting applause amid the popping of champagne bottles.
December 3rd, the Sierra Club of south Louisiana hosted a meeting in a Lafayette during which an overflow group of 300 was present. Sierra Club members toting microphones were like honey bees drawing from flowers amid the crowd from where questions, observations and outright challenges were openly expressed. The massive mood shift between December 1st and two days later was more than a sea change in attitude. Acadiana Open Channel(AOC) recorded the dynamic, emotional occasion which could be equated to a reversal of course on the route. I-49 had become “Y-49.”
Leaping forth from 1812 to 2015, the metamorphosis in consciousness coming from citizens who appeared to not welcome an invasion of steel and concrete allowed all present to simply imagine. Citizens expressing themselves were like tectonic plates from Earth pushing both a mighty river and I-49 backwards.
“THE MISSISSIPPI IS FLOWING NORTH” as analogy is an Interstate route unquestioned from the top down that may have been pushed backwards by citizens who are not warmly receiving something proposed twenty or more years ago by citizens and officials. They were unaware of I-49 construction disturbing a toxic waste site that might render our water unfit for drinking. Is potable water more important to a city than economic growth and the flow of traffic? If a corporate railroad (BNSF) made the toxic brew, should they not clean it up? Cost of cleaning toxic waste sites are unbearable. Will the groundswell of little people be heard? Would a referendum on I-49 be respected?