Climate Change in the Midwest: Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation

By S. C. Pryor | Go to book overview

14.
Local Adaptation to Changing
Flood Vulnerability in the Midwest

C. J. ANDERSON


introduction

A new public perspective on Midwest flood hazard is emerging. Midwest flood damage in recent years has elicited debate among citizens, city and regional planners, and state and federal government officials on the role of changing climate conditions, and one aspect of the discussion is whether rebuilding should encompass an additional goal of adapting flood protection measures to withstand higher frequency and greater severity of floods under the anticipation of continued climate change (Laasby 2011, Beeman 2011, Schnoor 2011, Hancock 2010, McAuliffe 2010, Hedin 2010, Kousky and Kunreuther 2010).

Adaptation to reduce exposure to future flood hazard is largely a local decision. While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for mediating flood risk through, for example, reservoir management, land use decisions by private landowners and community developers ultimately determine the rate at which rainfall turns into runoff and enters a river system. It is also at the local level that government constrains construction of city infrastructure and development of commercial and private property within flood plains. This means communities and private landowners will bear the cost burden of adaptation, and a critical impetus for adaptation will be the aid provided by federal programs to offset the cost of hazard mitigation activities. At present, the potential characteristics of future floods are not a point of consideration in any of federal mitigation assistance programs (i.e., the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), or Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program (PDM)).

Time is needed for climatologists and hydrologists to learn how to develop projections of future floods and to communicate these projections effectively within public discourse in order to assist in the assessment of the local cost of adaption and within state and federal agencies to guide the development of new mitigation aid programs. Though expediency is urged by the tone of public debate, reliable knowledge is the key to reducing costs and to maintaining the role scientific in-

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