Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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"The Mighty Merrimack"

3 years 5 months 1 week ago April 21, 2013 Apr 21, 2013 Sunday, April 21 2013 April 21, 2013 3:00 AM in Pat Shingleton Column
By: Pat Shingleton

As chief engineer for Lowell, MA, James Bicheno Francis compiled a history of floods discovering that the mighty Merrimack River crested above Pawtucket Falls at 13 feet 6 inches and caused a major flood in 1785. With this research, Francis supervised the construction of a five-mile system of canals along the river in 1848. As noted in a previous column, The Merrimack River provided an uninterrupted source of power to textile mills and changes in the river level were controlled by a system of gates and locks. With the city 30 feet lower than the falls, Francis realized that if crest levels repeated; surging water would funnel through the canals, destroying the heart of the city. He proposed building a massive gate to prevent this tragedy.

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