Skip to comments.Is the Corps of Engineers forcibly reverting floodplain to its natural state? (Conspiracy?)
Posted on 06/26/2011 6:52:05 AM PDT by milwguy
Thats the eye-popping thesis suggested by Joe Herring at American Thinker, and his prima facie evidence, while thin, is also hard to get around. The key fact is this:
On February 3, 2011, a series of e-mails from Ft. Pierre SD Director of Public Works Brad Lawrence sounded the alarm loud and clear. In correspondence to the headquarters of the American Water Works Association in Washington, D.C., Lawrence warned that the Corps of Engineers has failed thus far to evacuate enough water from the main stem reservoirs to meet normal runoff conditions. This years runoff will be anything but normal.
For the why, Herring quotes the Corps Master Water Control Manual:
Releases at higher-than-normal rates early in the season that cannot be supported by runoff forecasting techniques is inconsistent with all System purposes other than flood control. All of the other authorized purposes depend upon the accumulation of water in the System rather than the availability of vacant storage space. [Emphasis added.]
Originally, these other purposes were water supply, river navigation and recreation, none of which are served by failing to leave enough reservoir space for normal runoff in a high runoff year. But through thirty years of environmentalist domination of the federal bureaucracy, additional purposes have gained ever higher priority. The Missouri River should be natural:
The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.
Herring even quotes a Corps biologist celebrating the current flood:
The former function of the river is being restored in this one-year event. In the short term, it could be detrimental, but in the long term it could be very beneficial.
Sherlock Holmes method of exclusion
The direct evidence here is merely suggestive. Habitat restoration is a high priority goal and there is a bit of overt cheerleading for flooding. Far from conclusive, but how else to explain not vacating even a normal amount of reservoir space in a peak snowpack year?
Climate contrarians know to be wary of argument by the principle of exclusion. Thats what the CO2 alarmists do. Eyes wide shut to extensive evidence that 20th century warming was caused by an 80 year grand maximum of solar-magnetic activity, they claim warming has to be due to CO2 because every other possible explanation has been ruled out.
But in The Case of the Waterlogged Corps(e), Sherlocks method of exclusion is reasonable. The usual problem of failing to identify all the possibilities doesnt apply because the list of agency objectives is specified. Of these, habitat restoration is the only one that is served by the Corps actions.
The other possibility is that these government functionaries failed to notice that they had not vacated even the usual amount of space from their reservoirs, but low as expectations are for government work, this isnt really plausible. Such a mistake would have to be motivated, and as Herring points out, we know these peoples motivations. Almost to a man they are eco-leftists, and we know the eco-leftist position on rivers.
It isnt the dot-connecting that is outlandish, it is the dots. People who expressly want to see floodplains returned to their natural state followed policies that guaranteed massive flooding. Herring is right: this calls for investigation.
To the extent that risk of flooding can be lowered by flood-control infrastructure, the extra building on floodplains that this risk-reduction encourages is perfectly rational. What induces irrational building on flood plains is the federal governments longstanding policy of providing subsidized or implicit flood insurance.
After major flooding the government is prone to declare a disaster area. Even if the flood victims are not made whole, their losses are substantially mitigated, reducing the natural disincentive to build in flood zones. Get rid of this market interference and flood damages would be much diminished. In particular, flood plains would end up relegated mainly to agricultural uses that can weather occasional flooding with limited damage.
Seasonal flooding can actually be good for farmland so there is room for a win-win solution where flood control systems are set up to inundate large agricultural bottom lands as necessary to provide room for floodwaters. Instead of farmland on the outside of our riparian cities, substantial amounts of the best farmland would be on the inside of these cities. We see some of this now, but it would go much further if the government limited itself to infrastructure and did not interfere in markets. Safer for people, better for farming, better for migratory birds and the environment, and better for taxpayers.
Not easy to get there, after people have been building on the strength of government promises of relief for many decades, but it is a solution that is rational both economically and environmentally. Unfortunately, this is not what the eco-freaks want.
Instead of natural in the market-driven or liberty-driven sense, they embrace a sans-human naturalism, and it looks like the administrators of our flood-control infrastructure are in this camp. They have been hostile to flood-control infrastructure per se since the Clinton era, which is the only obvious explanation for why this infrastructure has been so completely misused.
Likewise, if you have farms and towns near the river, you might want steps taken to make sure that the river is controlled and the human assets protected. But that would be unnatural. The bureaucrats in Washington will make sure that the human assets are sacrificed on the altar of Mother Nature.
There are alternatives to levee systems ~
In out local Jackson Michigan paper the other day was a winning essay by a 4th grader. It was beautifully written and utterly false. She wrote about Michigan’s disappearing wetlands and the loss of the great flocks of blue herons.
The reality is that the wetlands have been virtually off limits since the 80s and blue herons are solitary birds.
Washington, DC was built in a swampy area. Under the current insane regulatory system it would never have been built.
I’m always seeing analogies - sometimes where they exist and sometimes where they don’t exist LOL.
I see a direct analogy to the operation of the FED. In the old days, the FED’s mission was to defend the dollar. Full Stop. Nowadays, the FED’s mission is to do that AND to keep unemployment down (of course the idea that printing money leads to higher employment is a whole nother debate for a whole nother day).
Here we see the Corps moving from flood control, commercial traffic, etc. etc. to “Preserving Wetlands”.
The fact that we’ve seen this priority shift in the FED makes me think it could equally well happen in the Corps.
However, the whole notion of the social contract comes into play at some point. The federal government, in the past, took it upon itself to build levees, control rivers, control beach erosion, provide flood insurance, and manage waterways.
The result of such government intervention was that a lot of people made decisions to build where they should not have. It seemed safe. Uncle Sam would look out for them. Now, Uncle Sam is being Lucy with the football. Ha Ha! You're screwed!
On a larger scale, I think this is what we will see with 401(k) and with social security. The social contract will fail and the government will just take what it wants and will not worry about your assets or about existing deals.
Rousseau began talk of the Social Contract just before the French Revolution. Now the social contracts are ending, and Revolution will follow.
I’m in a floodplain that didn’t exist a year ago thanks to FEMA floodplain mapping.
Pretty convenient eh?
Too bad they could not do this on a controlled method
All the houses and building would have to be built on stilts, though
President Palin had better fire ALL these communist ‘green’ nutjobs
We are at a very difficult point- it's too late to “work within the system” and too early to start shooting the ba$$ turds
As I implied in my earlier post another facet of the Social Contract is that the dollar that you earn or save today, will be worth something tomorrow. You might think that but you’d be wrong. What better way to redistribute wealth then by making most assets worthless?
—I’m also in a “floodplain” in southern Pahrump, NV—and have to have mandatory flood insurance—with a yearly average of 4” rain -—
I’m torn on this.
On one hand, it’s the smart thing to do, and the USCoE rarely does the smart thing.
On the other hand, the USCoE tends to like to muck around with things.
So it could be either way.
You sound like one of those backward thinkers who doesn’t realize that “flood control” magically makes flood waters disappear (rather than just intensify downstream problems).
My house is paid off so I don’t have to get flood insurance but my rates did go up due to the fact that the insurance company is required to set money aside for FEMA. My congressman has been pushing to eliminate the mandate that insurers must use the faulty FEMA maps.
I live right above a dam which means the actual floodplain is flooded year round. (We call it a lake). In may we had rain nearly every day, sometimes a couple of inches but the lake never rose more than about 2 inches. After all, the dam can only hold back so much water.
Shades of 1861.
If social contracts meant anything in this country, all those slaves that were purchased from the (Northern) importers would not have been forcibly set free without compensation. But the compensation idea of Abraham Lincoln and others was shot down.
Uncle Sam's interference disincentivizes long-term planning.
“Washington, DC was built in a swampy area. Under the current insane regulatory system it would never have been built.”
Good point. Perhaps a lawsuit could be drawn up and the monster could be turned against itself.
I know little about this specific case; but, I do know that court decisions in the last decade have made the COE subserviant to the EPA. Even the most simple permit sent to the COE must now be evaluated by the EPA. And, I know for a fact that the COE’s previous penchant for straight, clean waterways has been replaced by a desire to have ‘settling pools’ and places for fish to spawn....this is especially annoying in intermittent streams, where there are grasshoppers, but no fish.
Go back two decades and you’ll see that the COE was pushing for control of such things. And three decades ago, the COE was causing floods across the country—without any wetland issues.
And the levees didn't work except the more expensive ones used to protect the public water system's canals (which ultimately failed about 40 years later anyway).
Throughout the state it was pretty much the same. Levees didn't work, or were overwhelmed, or flooding was just simply intense everywhere and even upland areas had difficulties with ditching systems and driveway culverts, road culverts, culvert culverts, etc.
After that folks kind of abandoned the use of the OLDER SMALLER culverts and went to bigger ones, and elevated roads became popular. The state highway people began fixing low lying flood prone sections with causeways full of giant culverts ~ and fewer levees were built, or replaced.
Now this is no small issue there. The net waterflow from the Wabash as it enters the Ohio is actually larger than that of the Missouri as it enters the Mississippi. The Wabash, in turn, is fed by a series of smaller rivers that drain virtually all of the state (except the parts that drain directly to the Great Lakes or the Ohio.
There are millions of road crossings that make it possible to move around in a vast morass of cricks, streams, lakes, wallows, sloughs, rivers, and swamps ~ and virtually every road crossing is elevated at each end (so it doesn't wash away in a flood) and is built over some pretty ordinary looking steel and/or concrete culverts!
Southern Illinois is like that, and much of Ohio is too.
If you blocked flood waters in that territory with levee systems, rather than using causeways and culverts, you'd recreate the South end of Lake Michigan and the West end of Lake Erie year round, and that'd be the same big swamp the pioneers met BEFORE the 1812 earthquake that helped drain the place.
The best bet is to protect some very important spots with dykes but otherwise arrange things so the water can flow out of the area at a reasonable rate AFTER the peak flood.
Farmers should be advised to built a mound equal in height to the 500 year flood line and put their houses there.