It has been sixteen years since the Interagency Committee, detailed by President Bill Clinton to examine the Flood of 1993, issued its report, Sharing the Challenge: Flooplain Management into the Twenty-first Century.
“The Interagency committee accepted levees as a legitimate form of flood control and outlined its vision for the use of structural means of flood control, levees and reservoirs: Build high levees around cities and towns. Build upland reservoirs to store floodwater until the mainstem river can handle it. Restore upland and floodplain wetlands. Set low agricultural levees back from the river to broaden the amount of floodplain available for storage. Set gates in agricultural levees across sloughs to keep them wet throughout the year and maintain fish and wildlife habitat. Turn a portion of the floodplain outside the agricultural levees to wildlife refuges. Elevate major highways and railroads that run across floodplains. Split the cost of levees on mainstem rivers between the state and federal governments and local levee districts. Finally, the committee recommended using nonstructural means of flood control wherever possible: Move people out of the floodplain and turn it over to parks and wetlands.”[i]
An article in the March 4 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch again looked at the cost of upgrading the Mississippi River levees between Alton and Columbia, Illinois.
Buried way down in the second to last paragraph is this: “the district also set up a design competition among three consulting firms that Les Sterman, the construction supervisor for the Southwestern Illinois Flood Protection District, said may develop innovative solutions, including arranging ‘flood easements’ to allow temporary deliberate flooding of some farmland as needed to reduce crests.”
I think he is saying that the levee district will keep its promise to the cities in the American Bottom–Alton, Wood River, Roxanna, Granite City, East St. Louis, Cahokia, Dupo–to maintain 500 year levees, but will allow farmland to be flooded to take pressure off the levees, thus reducing the cost of the upgrades.
It is worth looking back at my post of two weeks ago on levees and Gerald Galloway’s history of levees and his recommendations, similar to those he and his colleagues made in Sharing the Challenge sixteen year ago.
Explore the American Bottom and learn more about the Flood of 1993 by going to TwoTankTours.com and downloading the Bluff Road tour for $7. It covers the American Bottom, the great Mississippi River Floodplain in Monroe and Randolph Counties in Illinois. It also includes a hike of the Fults Hilltop Prairie, a rare ecosystem on top of the bluffs.
Here is a coupon for 20% off on the purchase of The Mississippi: A Visual Biography: Coupon for purchase of The Mississippi, 20% off. You can download it and use the 800 number, mail it in, or go to the University of Missouri Press site and insert AFS9 in the promo code box next to the check out box.
[i] Sharing the Challenge, 67-68.