Sunday, July 22, 2012

Natural flood control could help prevent repeat Duluth's inundation

Duluth News Tribune: Tom Beery, an assistant professor in the Center for Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth, says the great rain and flood disaster of 2012 can become a defining moment in the community.

Beery, who also serves on the Duluth Parks Commission, recently wrote an opinion piece for the News Tribune that asks the community to take a new look at ways to re-vegetate urban areas to slow runoff.

“Would Miller Hill and Lincoln Park have flooded so dramatically if so much of the upper Miller Creek watershed was not paved? Would so many of our streets have been ripped apart if more water could have been absorbed upstream and if the overall flow to Lake Superior had been slower?” Beery asked. “We have an opportunity to address the challenges of climate change as we rebuild and redesign our beloved city. We also have the opportunity to use our collective vision for parks and trails to be a part of this transformation.”

As the city takes a breath from the cleanup and starts rebuilding for the future, efforts to ease the effects of the next big flood should be part of the conversation, Beery said.

Building green buffers in highly developed areas, redeveloping wetlands, building rain gardens and reducing impervious covers over the landscape — concrete and asphalt — all should be as much a part of reconstruction as repaving streets and replacing culverts.

But the city can go even farther. Encouraging mass transit to schools, institutions and even shopping centers might allow for smaller parking lots, for example, which could mean more wetlands and less runoff. That could help reduce flooding, promote wildlife in the city and allow people to watch that wildlife, Beery said. But it also would cut the carbon pollution that scientists say is causing the climate change that’s making it rain harder and more often...

Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge over the Saint Louis River, shot by Alfred Essa, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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