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If water finds its own level, can you explain the need for the Panama canal?

Dear Matthew Alice:

Who do I turn to when no one else has the answer? You, of course. Water finds its own level, right? RIGHT! Then explain the need for the Panama Canal. Except for tides and waves, all oceans should be level. Some educated people looked at me with raised eyebrows when I asked this question.

-- Eileen Serritella, San Diego

And you've turned to us just in the nick of time, Eileen. Not a moment to spare. One of the reasons the Panama Canal almost didn't get built was because practically everybody on the planning committee wanted to do what you imply -- dig a lower-than-sea-level ditch across the isthmus and then stand back and let water find its own level. With that plan, they'd still be moving rock today. Given the topography of Panama, which does include mountains, the only practical solution was the step-wise, locks-lakes-and-dams system to carry ships up and down the 85-foot rise. Busting down through the Continental Divide or routing ships through hairpin turns around hills just wasn't practical, though it looked cute on paper.

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Dear Matthew Alice:

Who do I turn to when no one else has the answer? You, of course. Water finds its own level, right? RIGHT! Then explain the need for the Panama Canal. Except for tides and waves, all oceans should be level. Some educated people looked at me with raised eyebrows when I asked this question.

-- Eileen Serritella, San Diego

And you've turned to us just in the nick of time, Eileen. Not a moment to spare. One of the reasons the Panama Canal almost didn't get built was because practically everybody on the planning committee wanted to do what you imply -- dig a lower-than-sea-level ditch across the isthmus and then stand back and let water find its own level. With that plan, they'd still be moving rock today. Given the topography of Panama, which does include mountains, the only practical solution was the step-wise, locks-lakes-and-dams system to carry ships up and down the 85-foot rise. Busting down through the Continental Divide or routing ships through hairpin turns around hills just wasn't practical, though it looked cute on paper.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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