Tidal Basin (District of Columbia)

The Tidal Basin is a partially man-made inlet adjacent to the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. It is part of West Potomac Park and is surrounded by the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The basin covers an area of about and is deep.

The concept of the Tidal Basin originated in the 1880s to serve both as a visual centerpiece and as a means for flushing the Washington Channel, a harbor separated from the Potomac River by fill lands where East Potomac Park is situated. Peter Conover Hains, an engineering officer in the U.S. Army, oversaw the design and construction.

The basin is designed to release 250 million gallons of water captured at high tide twice a day. The inlet gates, located on the Potomac side of the basin, allow water to enter the basin during high tide. During this time, the outlet gates, on the Washington Channel side, close to store incoming water and block the flow of water and sediment into the channel. As the tide begins to ebb, the general outflow of water from the basin forces the inlet gates to close. This same force is applied to the outlet gates, which open into the channel. Silt build up is swept away by the extra force of water running from the Tidal Basin through the channel. The gates are maintained as navigable by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has recently completed a project to restore the functioning of the gates.

The Tidal Basin was the scene of a scandalous drunken incident involving the Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, Congressman Wilbur Mills. On October 7, 1974, with an Argentine stripper known as Fanne Foxe. Mills' car, driven by a former Nixon staffer, was stopped by US Park police late at night because the driver had not turned on the lights. Mills was intoxicated, and his face was cut from a scuffle with Foxe. When police approached the car, Foxe leapt from the car and jumped into the nearby Tidal Basin. Mills acknowledged his alcoholism, sought treatment at the West Palm Beach Institute, and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Despite the scandal, he was re-elected to Congress in November 1974 with 60% of the vote, but in December he drunkenly staggered onstage at a Boston strip club where Ms. Foxe was performing. Soon after this second embarrassment Mills was forced to step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. He did not seek re-election in 1976.

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