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Archive for the ‘flooding’ Category

maeslant barrierMaeslant Barrier, Netherlands. Google Earth, December 2018

The US Army Corps of Engineers has just chosen the Ike Dike as the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for coastal protection on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. There is controversy over this choice, but all are agreed that “something must be done.”  We have put people and facilities increasingly in harm’s way over the years. Putting something between people and the harm, like an Ike Dike or one of its progenies (the Rice Mid-Bay Dike for example), seems like the most obvious thing to do. (more…)

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Midtown square bagby

Midtown Square development on West Gray, Houston. This development doesn’t flood, and it doesn’t contribute to flooding. It is a high-interaction neighborhood that builds social capital. (Google Map)

The impacts of Harvey still have our full attention.  We are all agreed—we don’t want to live through another Harvey.  We want to be so much better prepared for the next one. In that case, we better hope the next big one isn’t coming our way anytime soon.

“Do something!” seems to be the watchword of the day. The question is whether or not we will do the right thing. We are clearly taking some good steps in the right direction, but I fear we may lack the necessary organizing principles to build a Houston that is resilient for the next 100 years and beyond.

I suggest two watchwords that could lay the foundations for a robust resilience: watersheds and walkability. Watersheds are the template upon which we build. We must understand both the limitations and the advantages of our watersheds.  Walkability builds the social capital that provides the glue for strong communities. Both the city we build and the watershed we build it on must be healthy in every way if we are to remain vibrant into the next century. (more…)

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AUT_0022

I-45 in Galveston County.   A neighborhood of isolation with a high per-capita destruction of native prairie.

We have all heard the Harvey wakeup call. We all know we can’t continue business as usual. We have to change our ways. We will in fact be “the city that floods” unless we stop being the “city of no limits.”

Unlike previous storms, every one of us knows personally someone who was flooded out of their house. This storm will long remain with us. The Harvey aftermath will last much longer than previous storms—and thus will provide a longer “teachable moment” for us to think about our future. Let’s make this teachable moment about much more than flooding. Maybe thinking about how to be a great city will help us deal more rationally with the flooding as well. (more…)

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Harris County Floodplain Development

Map showing development in the Harris County Floodplains. Click here for a full size copy

“No amount of prevention could have prevented this kind of flooding.” “Houston did not do this to itself.” “There is no city, however it is governed, that could handle a Harvey.” 

The preceding are just a small sample of recent comments from prominent local leaders about Harvey, generally accompanied by statements implying another Harvey is not likely, and that just a little more of the same in the way of previous flood control is all we need.

If we cannot imagine another way to live with floods, then we had better hope that the last three years are a total anomaly and that we will not soon see another storm like Harvey.  On the other hand, if we think that Harvey would make a better benchmark for planning than the FEMA-defined 100-year floodplain, as some of our best minds do, then we need to radically reimagine how we coexist with big floods. (more…)

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Image result for +never flooded for sale +sign houston

A sign of post-Harvey times. © Houston Chronicle

The collision of big data with Hurricane Harvey could unleash a free-market reappraisal of floodplain development that would make the most draconian of floodplain ordinances look like a 90-lb weakling.  The signs are already on the horizon. (more…)

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