Flooding Reveals Economic Woes from Levee System

THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 3, 1993 | Go to article overview

Flooding Reveals Economic Woes from Levee System


To the poor souls watching the not-so-lazy old river churning through their barns and living rooms, the question of the hour is why Washington did not do more to protect them from disaster. But to many economists and environmentalists the question is whether the government should have done less.

With hindsight, they say, it is plain that the system of levees and dams meant to harness the Mississippi has done great harm as well as good, reducing the river valley's natural defenses against flood damage even as it encouraged development that put more property in harm's way. "We've been burning the candle at both ends for half a century," concluded Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

The challenge now, says Leonard Shabman, an economist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, is to avoid the errors of the past and to protect what is truly worth protecting without throwing good money after bad.

It has long been understood that the Mississippi River's plumbing is a mixed blessing. The deep channels that improve navigation also speed the flow of flood water. Similarly, the levees that prevent local damage raise the river crest downstream.

"When we turned the Mississippi into a canal, we redistributed the burden of flooding," noted Jon Goldstein, an economist for the Department of the Interior.

The Army Corps of Engineers implicitly acknowledged the problem by constructing dams on the Mississippi's tributaries, substituting artificial storage for the valley's natural capacity to capture rain. But one thing the master builders did not understand, Stavins says, is that the secondary economic effects of pushing around all that mud would damage the environment as well as magnifying the inherent risks of flood.

Much land in the Mississippi Valley was once wetlands, woods and marsh that were inundated at least every few years. A good chunk of the wetlands was sure to have been drained and cultivated, once roads and railways made it accessible to world grain markets.

By reducing the chances of local flooding, however, Washington created economic incentives to reclaim a far larger area. Stavins and Adam Jaffe, a colleague at Harvard, estimate that at least a third of the five million acres converted from wetlands in the lower Mississippi Valley since the 1930s was induced by federal flood control projects.

One result was that the valley lost much of its capacity as a natural sponge, absorbing less water in periods of heavy rain. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Flooding Reveals Economic Woes from Levee System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.