Rising Toll of Floods Calls for a National Investment in Our Natural Defenses

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Rising Toll of Floods Calls for a National Investment in Our Natural Defenses

WASHINGTON - It’s been over a month since NOAA released their spring flood forecast warning that the stage was set for potential widespread, record flooding in the Midwest for the third consecutive year. 

This week we are seeing the rising toll of flooding in Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois among other midwestern states and our hearts go out to those who have suffered tremendous losses.

In southeastern Missouri, a levee along the Black River in the area of Poplar Bluff breached south of the city flooding the community. 

Northeast of Poplar Bluff, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, town residents of Cairo, Illinois have been forced to evacuate. Floodwaters have now surpassed the highest level since 1937 and threaten to overtop or breach the floodwall protecting Cairo. The Corps of Engineers was forced to make a difficult decision: they had to use explosives to intentionally breach the Birds Point Levee and re-route the rising floodwaters onto farmlands into nearby Missouri to save the town of Cairo.

While it’s critically important to focus all efforts on safeguarding communities and ensuring public safety and recovery, we also must not lose sight of the need for a long-term vision to move beyond desperate measures like blowing up levees and instead toward a comprehensive flood risk and community safety strategy that invests in nonstructural, green infrastructure solutions that can safely convey more water naturally through the landscape.

We find ourselves in a different world –frequent and intense droughts and flood events are increasingly becoming more common as compared to past events as rainfall, snowpack, and temperatures shift. The consequences of shifting weather patterns will depend in large part upon choices that we have made in the past and are making now. 

Today, millions of Americans are living in harm’s way with inadequate protection from increasingly frequent floods. We have spent billions on gray infrastructure such as dams and levees, yet flood damage continues to increase, costing taxpayers an estimated $15 billion annually.  Huge federal outlays for flood protection  will be a thing of the past as the Administration works to achieve its goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 12 years.  However, that doesn’t negate the necessity and moral imperative to protect life and property.

The real question is, how do we respond? 

American Rivers’ believes that the best outcome for communities and rivers is to protect and restore our natural defenses – our rivers, wetlands, floodplains, forests and upland and coastal areas.

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American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.

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