Sunday, December 30, 2007

Head for the Hills

We're not used to homes being destroyed or rendered inhabitable by environmental disasters. That's what happens in Bangladesh, or New Orleans. But it happens closer to home as well, as the News Journal reports:
Now, most of Glenville is gone, bought out in a $34 million project to get residents out of harm's way. The state tore down 167 of the 194 homes -- with one more to go -- and fenced off the lowest-lying areas, which soon will be excavated as part of a 52-acre wetlands "bank" that can be used to offset future highway projects.
It has been more than four years since Tropical Storm Henri flooded the Red Clay watershed. But could it happen again, elsewhere in the watershed? Was this just a fluke, one of the many storms of the century as it were?
The concept of the storm of the century is captured in the concept of the 100-year flood, and mapped by federal, state and local planners.
Revisions to flood-plain maps are common and reflect new development and other factors that affect the way water flows. The maps show where the water is likely to reach flood stage in a 100-year flood (a storm with a 1 percent chance of occurring in a year) and a 500-year flood (a storm with a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in a year).
FEMA's most recent maps use flow data that is 22 years old, according to Mike Powell of the state Division of Soil and Water Conservation. The new maps will include data from the 2003 Red Clay flood, which was considered a 500-year flood, as well as 100-year floods in 1999 and 2004.
The potential affect of those changes is alarming to some property owners.
"They may put 1,000 homes into the flood plain that are not in the flood plain now," said Ed Boisvert, vice president of the Glenville Civic Association, who has represented the community in meetings with government officials. "If that happens, all those people have to buy flood insurance, property values deteriorate and there is a lot of politics."
We've become accustomed to building what we want, where we want. When government proposes limits on development, we hear cries of property rights being taken away. But Mother Nature is less amenable to pressure from developers.
Thousands of homes have been built upstream since the 2003 deluge, increasing the amount of water than runs directly into streams in a hard rain. Realtors and developers may not like to see maps with expanded flood plains, but the increased risk of flood is determined by the laws of nature, not the calculations of mapmakers.


Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

The problem isn't necessarily with people building or living in a flood plain. The bigger problem, in my mind, is when they expect government bailouts for their decision to do so. If you want to live in a flood plain (or any other area prone to natural disasters), that's your choice but you shouldn't expect others to subsidize your choice and pay for the consequences thereof.

From what I remember reading, the Glenville decision may be a special case, though. I seem to recall the argument being made that the floods in the neighborhood developed after development in other areas took place which caused the runoff to affect Glenville, which previously did not have these problems. If that indeed is the case, then I think Glenville residents are due for compensation from the government since the problem came as a result of government action in approving the plans for the newer developments.

6:45 PM, December 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an excellent case of the hidden costs that businesses inflict on society in general. The development of the watershed has caused problems with the Red Clay Creek, but those costs were not factored in to the calculation of the costs of new homes.

The same is true with regard to power generation. The costs of healthcare for persons living downwind of a coal-fired power-plant are not reflected in the price of the power generated by the plant.

We should tell developers that they can build wherever they want, by that the costs of doing so are higher than they have been in the past.

8:05 AM, December 31, 2007  
Blogger Nancy Willing said...

amen geek, and then some.

9:07 AM, December 31, 2007  
Blogger Nancy Willing said...

amen geek, and then some.

9:07 AM, December 31, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home