The Levee Love Affair: A Stormy Relationship

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flooding, levee systems, policy, water management

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A history of flood control in the United States shows an undying affair with levees. This love affair, however, was put severely to the test by the record flooding in the summer of 1993. About 70 percent of levees in the upper Midwest failed during this time, leading to extensive damage to both farmland and urban areas. Consequently, there were repeated calls to re-assess the nation's floodplain management policies. The report of the Intera-gency Floodplain Management Review Committee is one outcome of this and it forms the basis of this commentary on levees. In many respects, levees are effective flood control measures, being relatively cheap to implement and easy to build. At the same time, levees have negative impacts, affecting the hydrological regime both up and down stream, and often exacerbating flooding in other places. Furthermore, technical weaknesses in design, planning, construction, and maintenance have all contributed to levee failures. While the report recommends changes in floodplain management to address some of these issues, it is difficult to see how these will materialize given the current political, economic, and social climate.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 31, issue 3, p. 359-367