Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Realism starts taking root in Louisiana's flood plains

From the NYT's 'With Coastline in Ruins, Cajuns Face Prospect of Uprooted Towns' (emphais added):

GRAND CHENIER, La. - Cameron Parish, where generations of Cajuns have hunted ducks and pulled up redfish, lost about 400 people to Hurricane Audrey in 1957. Last fall, when Hurricane Rita destroyed thousands of structures and flattened the coastline, some state officials began to question whether life there was still worth the risk.

Louisiana planners are proposing an idea that would have been unimaginable here a few months ago: moving an entire string of seaside towns and villages - and the 4,000 longtime residents who live in them - 15 or 20 miles inland to higher and presumably safer ground.

"If we could get 100 percent participation, which admittedly is extraordinarily difficult, if possible at all, we could conceivably take the entire population of Cameron Parish largely out of harm's way for future events," said Drew Sachs, a consultant to the Louisiana Recovery Authority. He has been asked to develop bold suggestions for rebuilding the state's coastal region in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita...
Moving populations away from flood plains...what an "unimaginable" and novel concept...NOT!

From the 'Protecting Society from Flood Damage, A Case Study from the 1993 Upper Mississippi River Flood' (published by none other than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers):


In the four years since the flood of 1993 many efforts have been made to help reduce future flood damages; many levees have been repaired, several small communities have been moved out of the floodplain, many thousands of individual buildings located in the floodplain have been purchased and removed, work is progressing on levees and or floodwalls for several unprotected urban areas, thousands of acres of land previously protected by levees are being purchased from willing sellers for restoration to wetland conditions. In many cases infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sewage treatment plants, etc. have been raised or protected from future flooding. The Corps of Engineers has developed a new computer model (UNET) to help analyze any proposed changes to the floodplain and to also provide an improved forecast model for future flood events. The proper application of flood insurance and floodplain land use restrictions have been stressed to local governments.
And more from 'Floods & floodplains: problems & solutions':
Despite the rising costs of flooding, government incentives continue to lure people into the floodplain. And when disaster strikes, too many flood victims are left with no choice but to return to the river bottoms. This report proposes a new course for federal flood control policy:
  • Increase funding and incentives for voluntary relocation, land acquisition and other non-structural alternatives. Federal and state funding for programs which relocate homes, farms and businesses before and after disaster strikes, and for programs which encourage flood-tolerant land uses like tree production, should be increased.

  • Reform floodplain management programs. Federal, state and local roles and responsibilities should be redefined to help communities move vulnerable homes, farms and businesses before disaster strikes.

  • Eliminate incentives for floodplain development. Federal flood control, flood relief and flood insurance programs should be reformed to discourage development in flood-prone areas, encourage floodplain land uses which can withstand periodic flooding, and return responsibility for flood loss reduction to individuals and communities.



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