Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rethink our heavy reliance on levees

Mary Kelly, with the Environmental Defense Fund, in guest column in the Des Moines Register: … We have spent billions of dollars on levees and flood-control infrastructure in the Midwest to protect and encourage development of river flood plains and low-lying wetlands, but it clearly is not working.…

We also know that the federal government recently assessed the integrity and protection level of thousands of miles of levees from coast to coast and found many of them seriously deficient. In extreme storm conditions, the kinds of flooding and damages we saw in Iowa, Missouri and other states in recent weeks will be seen in many other parts of the country.

Our heavy reliance on levees, which are hugely expensive to build and maintain, is sorely misplaced. It leads people to think that living in a flood plain is risk-free, behind levees that their builders touted as offering protection against a "100-year" or "500-year" storm. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the time-worn refrain goes, there are only two kinds of levees - those that have already failed and those that will fail….

An Iowa National Guardsman wrangles a sandbag as part of a new levee protecting an Ottumwa power sub-station. (Iowa National Guard photo by Sgt. Chad D. Nelson). This was taken during the Great Iowa Flood of 2008, and posted sometime after June 13, 2008. Wikimedia Commons

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