22 October 2005

Flood plains

I heard an article about the Army Corps of Engineers on NPR earlier this week.

It sounds like Army Corps of Engineers flood control projects (levees), like interstate highway projects, are often pork-barrel job programs, the kind of district-specific spending that is the basic trading currency in Congress (blah).

But unlike highways, levees cause problems. Building a levee encourages people to build homes and businesses in the flood plain below. It can affect the landscape in unexpected ways, as in New Orleans where the levees directly caused the city to sink into a bowl-like shape. And it drains wetlands, removing a natural buffer that slows flood waters when a flood does occur (and, incidentally, killing all the wildlife that lives there).

Proposed solution: drop the requirement that Corps flood control projects have to demonstrate economic benefits outweighing their cost. NPR didn't give the impression there was anything wrong with this clearly insane idea, nor did they interview any opposing interest.

To me this sounds like a program that just needs to be cut.

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