Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Geologist decries floodplain development

04.04.2008
Lessons unlearned from 1993 flood

Midwesterners have to be wondering: Will April be the cruelest month?

Patterns in the Midwest this spring are eerily reminiscent of 1993 and 1994, back-to-back years of serious flooding. The great flood of 1993 caused nearly $20 billion of economic damage, damaging or destroying more than 50,000 homes and killing at least 38 people.

Parallels this year include abnormally high levels of precipitation in late winter and early spring, and early flooding in various regions. In March, Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois and the Ohio River experienced flooding. A still-unknown factor is the effect of the snow melt from upstream states on river systems this spring and summer. Wisconsin, for example, had record amounts of snow this winter.

Despite the similarity in conditions and periods of flooding nearly every year after those flood years more than a decade ago, one thing Midwesterners have not learned is "geologic reality," says Robert E. Criss, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

"When people build commercial or residential real estate in flood plains, when they build on sink holes, when they build on fault lines, when they build on the hillsides in L.A. that are going to burn and burn, over and over again, they're ignoring geologic reality," Criss says. "They're asking for chronic problems."

Many homes in the St. Louis region along the Meramec River have suffered damage, and some are still not habitable, even as spring comes to the area.

"Yes, the loss of and damage to homes is heartbreaking, and tragic, but it wasn't that long ago, in 1994, that a flood of equal impact hit the region to inundate homes in the floodplain. And, there was even more severe flooding than that in 1982," Criss says. "Flooding is what a river does on its geomorphic flood plain. It's an obvious geologic mistake to build on a floodplain."

How about putting up more levees, such as the 500-year levee in the St. Louis suburbs of Valley Park and Chesterfield, constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

"Building a levee for a community simply 'certifies' that this is a great place to build more things," Criss says. "The Corps of Engineers will come in and claim it's a 500-year levee, which is a claim they cannot make, yet routinely do. That just encourages more infrastructure to move into these areas, when we should take the Times Beach and Valmeyer approach."

Criss refers to the Missouri community of Times Beach, Mo., which was abandoned following the flood of the Meramec River in 1982, and Valmeyer, Ill., which moved off the Mississippi floodplain and was rebuilt up on the river bluff after the flood of 1993.

"An additional problem is that this is a starving world with comparatively little arable crop land," he says. "I object, from an environmental and geological point of view, to converting some of the best crop land in the world to strip malls and commercial real estate. This is a bad swap and it's using the land for the wrong reasons."

Criss says that levees cause water to rise instead of spread out, and that the cumulative effect of levees and wing dykes on the large rivers north of St. Louis is beginning to manifest itself in flooding.

Criss says the claim that a levee will withstand floods for 500 years is "an absurd exaggeration. If some private company were making claims that they'll sell you a car that will run for 500 years, they'd be in jail. Somehow, the government feels justified making absurd claims that have no basis."

Criss says better zoning laws that encourage appropriate kinds of development for areas could be the solution to extreme flooding.

"Everyone screams for more levees, which only encourage more development," he says. "These structures are not infallible, and when the levees fail — and they will, carefully though they are built — we just have more infrastructure in harm's way. It's not a very thoughtful approach.

"We ignore the natural system in what we do. These are floodplains. What do we expect of floodplains? They're great places to farm or construct a park. Losing crops that most likely are insured is different than losing millions of dollars per acre of buildings and infrastructure and, in some cases, lives."

Robert Criss | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

nachricht Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Shallow soils promote savannas in South America

20.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

How Obesity Promotes Breast Cancer

20.10.2017 | Life Sciences

How the smallest bacterial pathogens outwit host immune defences by stealth mechanisms

20.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>