Monday, May 09, 2011

Flood History

It is a shame that with almost every problem that faces the United States, our nation has already dealt with a similar problem in the past. At some point between then and now, we've either willfully forgotten the lessons or fallen prey to the snake-oil salesmen who convinces us that his medicine works the best.

Has it occurred to anyone why we have problems with flooding in this country? John Barry penned a must-read Saturday Essay in the WSJ on April 30 to describe, in layman's terms, what is going on here. (HT: YRHT)

Some of the questions Barry takes a crack at:

1. Why do all these people live in danger of flooding, and can't they just move somewhere else?

2. When did this become the Federal government's problem? What group of socialists decided that the government should be in the flood control business?

3. When did African-Americans abandon the Republican Party?

4. How do decisions made in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota end up contributing to massive property damage in Louisiana?

5. What kind of person lives in flood-prone areas and doesn't have flood insurance?

6. If the USACoE know how to build better levees, why don't they do it?

Of course, you can find more detailed answers to most of these questions by reading Barry's book, Rising Tide, but actual US history may not be compatible with an already made-up mind.

Update: Oh, here are a few ideas.

(HT: EJ)



Dante said...

The most interesting part of this article to me is the mention of the floodways. From what I gather here (which admittedly isn't much), flooding that farmland has been a longstanding plan b in the event of serious floods but I keep thinking I'm missing something because surely such a sensible explanation would've been offered as the story was reported. Right? Instead it was reported in the same light as BP shooting golf balls at a leaking underwater oil rig.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

You know how I've been asking "Why would anyone think that the government might blow up their own levees?"

The answer to that is, of course, because the government blows up their own levees. This is, of course, one flood control tool and has been for decades.

The reporting on it reflects only the misunderstanding on the part of the general population regarding what we're dealing with when our nation faces catastrophic flooding, and what options the government uses in these situations. The USACE uses levees, and when those levees are on the brink of failure, less valuable property is sacrificed to save more valuable property.

But American popular culture usually has a problem when any property has to be lost, especially if someone else's property is deemed more "valuable." That's why it doesn't make a lot of sense to many Americans (and national reporters) that the USACE would blow up its own infrastructure.

sumadre1 said...

The school that I teach at is in Morganza, a few miles below the spillway. Many of my students live in the flood path and some have already evacuated because the water is already starting to move over the retaining structures.

It is strange being so near to what is about to happen, to know some people who will be affected by this, but it doesn't change the big picture. There are systems in place for when shit happens, and this is a case of when that shit is happening. Land is cheap in the spillway path, those there are not anywhere near the affluent who generally "choose" where to live.

We'll see what happens, but in the meantime we have moved our seniors graduation up to tomorrow night. That way we can insure all of them the chance to walk a stage and get a diploma. I'll update you on anything fun and interesting from up here.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

That's a pretty reasonable way to view an entirely unreasonable situation.

I like how you put "choose" in quotation marks. The national narrative is that people shouldn't "choose" to live where there is any risk. This ignores the fact that the most at-risk populations always have to live on the most marginal land available. I'm sure we'll hear about how the people living in the path of the Morganza will be needing a "government handout."

The other ridiculous thing is that this is the way the "system" is designed to work. I know shit happens, but there are better ways to mitigate these happenings without intentionally flooding Acadiana.