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 Huge stores of Arctic sea ice likely contributed to past climate cooling
21.02.2020 | University of Massachusetts Amherst

nachricht First research results on the "spectacular meteorite fall" of Flensburg
18.02.2020 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.

Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Active droplets

21.02.2020 | Medical Engineering

Finding new clues to brain cancer treatment

21.02.2020 | Health and Medicine

Beyond the brim, Sombrero Galaxy's halo suggests turbulent past

21.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>