As Flood Risks Rise Across the US, It’s Time to Recognize the Limits of Levees


By Amahia Mallea, Associate Professor of History, Drake University

Posted on Naked Capitalism

Originally published at The Conversation

New Orleans averted disaster this month when tropical storm Barry delivered less rain in the Crescent City than forecasters originally feared. But Barry’s slog through Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri is just the latest event in a year that has tested levees across the central U.S.

Many U.S. cities rely on levees for protection from floods. There are more than 100,000 miles of levees nationwide, in all 50 states and one of every five counties. Most of them seriously need repair: Levees received a D on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2018 national infrastructure report card.

Levees shield farms and towns from flooding, but they also create risk. When rivers rise, they can’t naturally spread out in the floodplain as they did in the pre-flood control era. Instead, they flow harder and faster and send more water downstream.

Read the rest of this post on Naked Capitalism.


Levees exist in one out of every five U.S. counties. USACE

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