By Brad Walker, Rivers Director January 27, 2016
Here we go again; another flood and lots of earnest questions about why it happened, who’s to blame, how we can fix it, etc., etc., etc.
All one has to do is read old studies, not just ones you can find on the internet, but hard copy reports from “way back” in the 1970’s and 1980’s (and even much before then) to see the same questions are getting asked over and over again after each flood. The only uniquely new issue that is finally becoming ingrained within our questions today is the near complete acceptance that we have messed up our climate and it’s having an impact upon floods.
It is, however, difficult to parse and then quantify the numerous human actions that have increased the impacts of flooding. Their existence is well documented and include channelizing (narrowing) streams and rivers, placing vast amounts of impervious surfaces in urban and suburban areas, draining almost all farm land with tiles, destroying huge areas of wetlands, disconnecting floodplains from their rivers with levees (mainly for agriculture), and building inappropriate developments in floodplains. But to decide which the worst offenders are or what bad decisions need to be corrected in what order is the dilemma. And gathering the political will required to make the corrections has always been the major obstacle.… Read the rest