Should we rebuild after the flood?
We've been watching these flood stories coming out of Iowa and some other very wet places this week. Very amazing and very sad for those affected. But I can't help wondering why we continue to allow people to rebuild in flood plains, when we know they will, eventually, be washed out again. These rivers, and the oceans, are far bigger than we are, they they don't give a whit about our attempts to colonize their ancient territory.
Seems to me there have been some efforts to buy out a few of these places, and rebuild communities on higher ground. But it's clear we don't do enough of it. Instead, we spend our money on (ultimately) futile attempts to hold back the rivers and defy the storm tides. New Orleans is a classic example of a place that should never have been settled. Yet we rebuild, spending billions on levees that break and beaches that wash away, and flood insurance that just keeps on giving.
Consider this from Friends of the Earth:
"In 1966, a report to Congress by the Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy gave the nation a lesson in flood control: don’t rebuild in high-hazard zones like coastlines and river deltas. This lesson was reiterated in the 1973 Report of the National Water Commission. Both distinguished panels found that despite the enormous flood control expenditures, flood damages were increasing. Both panels recommended that more attention be paid to relocation out of flood zones and called for greater emphasis on non-engineering solutions. There is a growing body of evidence that healthy wetlands, in-tact dune systems and other natural ecosystems reduce storm and flood damage, but far too many tax dollars have been spent to destroy these natural systems to facilitate more development."
FOE makes the argument that global warming will make all this worse. But it's not necessary to invoke global warming here, although there are plenty of people ready to argue that more extreme precipitation and warmer, higher oceans will only increase the frequency of flooding events. Set all that aside. These rivers and shores have been flooding for eons. We're the new element there. And we're only building more costly infrastructure and adding more population to the riversides and coastlines. That's what's costing us so much more each time these events occur. And that's just dumb.
Anybody have any thoughts on this? Should we just help these people rebuild? Or should we help them move to higher ground? Leave the farm fields. Floods are good for them in the long run. But move the homes out of the rivers' path.