Friday, June 27, 2008

Midwest Floods, Global Warming, and Managing Associated Challenges

Learn more about the increasing frequency of heavy rain, how floodplains are being managed, and how we can be better prepared in the future by tuning in to a teleconference on July 1 at 10 am Eastern time and 9 am Central. This teleconference is presented by the National Wildlife Federation. Speakers will include Dr. Amanda Staudt, a National Wildlife Federation Climate Scientist who will discuss the latest science on global warming, heavy rainfall, and increased flooding risk. David Conrad, who is the senior resource specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, will speak about national flood insurance legislation that is poised to move in Congress. The president of the Iowa Wildlife Federation, Joe Wilkinson, will share his on-the-ground perspective on the flooding. Nicholas Pinter from the Department of Geology at Southern Illinois University will talk about why flood levels have increased systematically through much of the Mississippi system, and how new estimates appear to dramatically underestimate the actual modern frequencies of large floods. To join in the call, dial 1-800-791-2345 pin 64083#.

NOTE: Birl Lowery and Pete Nowak from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are organizing a special symposium at the SWCS Annual Conference on conservation issues related to the Midwest floods. The symposia will be held on Tuesday, July 29th as a part of the 2008 SWCS International Conference in Tucson, Arizona. For more information, go to

1 comment:

drcressman said...

I write to strongly agree with, Pete on again making his vitally important point that" our mission is to raise the hard and unpopular questions", To emphasize, I expand on the point by suggesting that, while it certainly applies to the SWCS Science and Policy Committee, it cannot stop there not stop there. it really must apply to all those who consider themselves concerned an committed resource management professionals. Those questions needed to be directed to all who sit in positions of authority.To illustrate my point, I will comment on a different dimension of the tragic spring floods of 2008.
As an SWCS Past-President, sitting north of the US-Canada border, I had opportunity to watch a lot of CNN News coverage of these latest floods,
(I am cautious about posting my following comments since I don't want to be perceived as self -righteous and judgmental. However I am still baffled and unable to understand how it was possible to have watched at least one spanking new house perched immediately adjacent to the bank of the Wisconsin River as it broke in half as the river bank bank eroded beneath the house);.
Yes Pete, right in your own 'backyard', it would seem.

Around here, since experiencing the massive devastation, including many lost lives due to Hurricane Hazel in 1954, it has no longer been permissible for anyone to build structures, or in floodplains. .In response to that chaos, the provincial government gave local watershed management bodies the authority to establish regulations that can prohibit anyone from erecting new structures in the floodplain, or to do any of the following, without a permit from the watershed authority: alter the channels of water courses, deposit fill or anything else that would significantly reduce the capacity of the floodplain to safely accommodate floodwaters.
I find it both both Ironic and baffling ,that I can see no evidence of similar precautionary systems in place in jurisdictions in the US Perhaps I'm just not looking in the right places . Instead, I see all sorts of failing levees. Surely, on lesson to be learned from this experience is that levees as a principal form of flood control and the engineers who designed them have been fully discredited. Not only that but they actually attenuate the problem by giving a false sense of security a which encourages even more development to be flooded when the levees fail.

We are also fortunate that local politicians are also willing to zone floodplains as public open space where structures are prohibited due to risk of damages and threat to lives. This is especially significant protection for future homebuyers who have no awareness about flood risks.

the floodplains are delineated by water resource engineers using hydrologic models\tools developed in the US, yet I fail to see evidence of similar precautionary measures little While serving on a SWCS Land Use Task Force and then the Board I was stunned to discover of breadth and ferocity of resistance to land use controls, right across the States. I detected an attitude as long as I have I have an official document that declares my ownership of a parcel of land, I can do with it whatever I please, perhaps ensuring that I can realize the Great American Dream, no matter how much others may suffer as a result and society pay very big bills for avoidable evacuations and, for the privileged few, costly rehabilitative works, only to go through the same cycle some years down the road. THIS is where I see most of the greed at play. How long can an otherwise intelligent society allow such insanity to continue?

How many developers of flooded housing were blissfully sunning themselves on southern beaches while the folks who paid their way back home were suffering immensely? But,to be fair, not all such housing is constructed by developers. Since we often do it to oirselvea, who can protect us from our own stupidity? Is there no room for compassion and common sense in the lofty arena of policy-making?
Dave Cressman,
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada