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posted: 5/26/2013 5:00 AM

Stop building, living on flood plains

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We've just begun our annual reminder that we've built too many cities on flood plains. So we declare the usual disaster areas and commend our first responders for their excellent work. In truth, it's only these first responders who have done us proud in these episodes. Everyone else has failed. Business has sold properties that should have never been developed. City officers have let them do it, as did countless other regulators. Bankers first loaned money to pay for developments, and then loaned again and again to repair them. Insurance is offered where it should not be.

After that come the politician's empty promises that they will make it all better. But it all depends on someone else's money to rescue those displaced.

It's time we got hardhearted about this. Mother Nature just gave us a prioritized map of where we should not build. This map works with the changes we have made by upstream development. It's what is vulnerable now that needs to be abandoned, not what looked vulnerable decades ago when some chart was published. Rather than spend reconstruction money maximizing the loss in the next storm, we need to clear out the most vulnerable areas even if they are downtowns or longtime residences. This might make room for flood control for the least endangered areas.

The idea that floods can't happen because a spot is on a 100-year contour has been proven wrong again. We need to face reality and get out.

Mark Muehlhausen


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