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The U.S. Flood Control Program at 75: Environmental Issues


  • Paper No. JAWRA-10-0150-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.



Black, Peter E., 2012. The U.S. Flood Control Program at 75: Environmental Issues. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 48(2): 244-255. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00609.x

Abstract:  Recent, recurring, and increased magnitude floods adversely challenge long-held and erroneous concepts of flood control. This article focuses on the environmental issues with comprehensively reviewed essentials of the United States (U.S.) riverine Flood Control Program, including news reports, scientific articles, books, and landmark treatises. For the past three-quarters of a century, U.S. floods have continued (and will continue) to occur, causing increasing property damage with growing fiscal loss. Reasons include inattention to fundamental principles of physics, hydrology, and ecology. There are also important challenges involving environmental policy, economics, and common sense. Measures afforded by the existing program encourage and enable investment in floodplains while violating a variety of natural principles that make the situation worse. This detailed review includes the questionable (actually untrue) justification in the document-setting policy for the 1936 Omnibus Flood Control Act. The well-documented evidence is overwhelming. An alternative approach is presented that would enable and celebrate natural floods, managing their ecological and hydrological values, and not attempting to control them.