Should all of America pay for Davenport?
April 25, 2001 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Should all of America pay for Davenport? If a community has the ability to avoid a natural disaster and chooses not to, are the rest of us responsible? How many times. Apparently, Davenport benefits economically from the great view, unobstructed by a floodwall. Maybe it should use some of those benefits to clean up the mess?
posted by anapestic (40 comments total)
I have seen and heard citizens of Davenport being interviewed on TV. If my tax bucks help to keep them there and not have them come closer to where I live, I am all for it. We also pay for reclaiming beachfront property that constantly gets washed away fro homes of the wealthy etc etc I support government handouts so long as it is not for the poor, the hungry, the ill, children, or the elderly.
posted by Postroad at 10:30 AM on April 25, 2001

There was someone from Davenport this morning on the radio talking about the $100 million tourism industry because they have an unobstructed waterfront. Surely they can afford their own insurance!?
posted by revbrian at 10:44 AM on April 25, 2001

Many of us are against government handouts for the reclaiming of beachfront property as well.
posted by aaron at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2001

What God has rent asunder let no man put together.
posted by Postroad at 11:01 AM on April 25, 2001

"Adventure Tourists" have been pulling this stunt for years. They voluntarily hike up the side of Everest or into uncharted wilderness, secure in the knowledge that the gov. will send in Search-n-Rescue teams in anything goes wrong ...
posted by Shadowkeeper at 11:08 AM on April 25, 2001

Anapestic... This is really two different issues. Should tax payers pay for disaster relief for intransigent communities faced with recurring "disasters" (and how a flood is a disaster escapes me... but that's a different discussion); the other question is whether a flood wall is even an appropriate response to flooding: flood walls are hardly foolproof, and there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that flood walls exacerbate flooding's potential impact on a region (there is a great deal of discussion about how the levees around St Louis may have actually catalyzed the widespread destruction experienced in the floods of 1994).
posted by silusGROK at 11:08 AM on April 25, 2001

and how a flood is a disaster escapes me...

According to one source:

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

Ok, that wasn't a serious response, but I think flood fits most definitions of a disaster, the beneficial effects on agriculture notwithstanding.

I'm aware of the arguments about the dangers of levees, but the fact remains that the city across the river doesn't have the same problems. In any case, one could ask whether a person who builds his home in a place where he knows it will get washed away deserves to be bailed out repeatedly.
posted by anapestic at 11:30 AM on April 25, 2001

floods are disasters. my grandmother's house, where my mother grew up, is in a flood plain and i witnessed a major flood there several years ago. the flood waters destroy buildings and property, and people get stranded by them if they don't evacuate in time... can you imagine watching your house fill up with water slowly, an inch at a time, and being completely powerless to stop it? you just try to haul everything out of the basement and then everything out of the first floor & hope your foundation isn't too severely damaged. it's devastating.
posted by palegirl at 11:32 AM on April 25, 2001

Aaron: You must have seen the same John Stossel report I did. The government regularly picks up the tab to rebuild expensive beachfront homes along the Atlantic Coast that should never have been built so close to the coastline.

I can't say I'm holding out much hope that the Republicans will choose to end this particular bailout, though.
posted by rcade at 11:51 AM on April 25, 2001

the owner, Tom Magers, 61, seemed confident he would withstand the flood as he did during the "100-year floods" of 1965 and 1993.

Could somebody please explain the concept of 100-year floods to me? Guerneville CA has been hit by them three times between 1994 and 1997.
posted by swell at 12:09 PM on April 25, 2001

In our day and age, where we live in the perpetual spring of air conditioned offices and asparagus in November, I don't doubt that floods are seen as disasters... but people throughout history have seen floods as part of a lifegiving cycle. Granted, not all floods are of an appreciated scale... and -- like wildfires -- the more we attempt to curb the natural cycle of flooding, the greater the scale of the flooding will be as silt builds up and is not given anywhere to go.

Palegirl: I'm sorry for your grandmother's losses, but it doesn't mitigate the benefits of cyclical flooding. Community building standards can change faster than weather patterns, and with greater efficacy.

Anapestic: You're right, if you keep rebuilding in the same place with the same paradigm, you shouldn't expect to be bailed out (pun intended). It's a bit of a "cry wolf" scenario, not to mention that quote, "Insanity is continuing to do the same thing, while expecting different results" (does anyone know who said that?). But again, who says that a flood wall is the answer... before I'd build a floodwall, I would enact stricter set-backs, flood-proof foundations, piered buildings and the like.
posted by silusGROK at 12:11 PM on April 25, 2001

Interesting how this is always an issue in the Midwest, but rarely in earthquake/mudslide/fire-prone California or the hurricane-prone East Coast.

The feds keep bailing out people who continually build and rebuild in the paths of hurricanes, or on eroding beaches, or on the sides of hills waiting to slide off, or in forests that burn. Is there anywhere on earth that isn't at nature's whim through one natural force or another? No. Yet it's the Midwest that keeps getting fingered for this.
posted by erogers at 12:18 PM on April 25, 2001

They could always build their houses on stilts like in the Florida Keys... :)
posted by owillis at 12:19 PM on April 25, 2001

Erogers... that's hardly the case. The issue is brought up with each "disaster"... you just may be particularly sensitive to those complaints about the midwest. Who knows... I'd say pretty much the same thing, though, about any regions particular issues... flood, landslide, fire, earthquake. Now a tsunami, that might register a different response: there's damn little to be done in the face of a 200 foot wall of water.
posted by silusGROK at 12:35 PM on April 25, 2001

Surely they can afford their own insurance!?

I doubt any sane insurance company would sell flood insurance to these people without charging outrageous premiums.

Should all of America pay for Davenport?

Why not? All of America pays for Florida hurricane victims; California mudslide, wildfire, and earthquake victims; and Midwest tornado victims.

Could somebody please explain the concept of 100-year floods to me?

Well, I would imagine it's based on evidence of past flooding patterns. However, human development patterns are changing the way water runoff works. Rapidly multiplying tracts of impermeable land in the form of parking lots and other suburban development in the watershed of rivers and streams causes more and more severe flooding as time goes on. It looks like the old concepts of 100-year and 500-year floods may not hold any more, given our impact on the environment. Or maybe we're just in an abnormal period. Maybe these 100-year floods won't happen again for 400 more years. You never know...
posted by daveadams at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2001

Could somebody please explain the concept of 100-year floods to me? Guerneville CA has been hit by them three times between 1994 and 1997.

A distribution is constructed by sampling the level of water in a river (over a perios of many years). The distribution is approximately normal (most of the time, the river runs at about the same level). Once the distribution has been constructed, we can ask questions of it. One of these questions is 'What is the probability that the river level today will occur in any given year'. If the probability is 1%, then we call this a hundred year river level (i.e. it would occur once in a hundred years or 1% of the time) or a hundred year flood. Does this mean that the flood will occur every hundred years? No! A hundred year flood will occur every hundred years on average, given our current sample of river levels. The fact that improbable events are occurring with great regularity may be an indication that current river levels are from a different population than they used to be (read: that there have been changes in streamflow patterns). A statistical test could tell you if streamflow patterns are now coming from a different population than they used to. Of course (more likely, especially when the sample is smaller than the number of years) all of the use of these 'hundred year what's-its' terms may be due to the law of small numbers.

Ah . . . the power of statistical analysis.

So who's experiencing a 10 year (a 90 percentile) streamflow level today? Ask the USGS!
posted by iceberg273 at 12:53 PM on April 25, 2001

daveadams: just because we are currently bailing out people too stubborn to change doesn't mean that we should stop asking the question. If we can't then our system of entitlements will grow to include everyone: shouldn't we have a more responsive/responsible system?

iceberg: great info! thanks...
posted by silusGROK at 12:59 PM on April 25, 2001

Should all of America pay for Davenport?

Why not? All of America pays for Florida hurricane victims; California mudslide, wildfire, and earthquake victims; and Midwest tornado victims.

Well . . . yeah, and I don't really have a problem with it (well, maybe the mooks who perched their mansions on nice silty-slidey earthen hillsides) in most of those cases, because most of them aren't preventable. But Davenport refuses to even build a floodwall, or, seemingly, anything else that impedes their view. I'm having a hard time working up sympathy. What am I missing?

Also, anyone else get the feeling that if I asked for information on how to build a Hoverbike, iceberg could promptly post the instructions for me?
posted by Skot at 1:08 PM on April 25, 2001

All of America should pay for the davenport only if all of America jumped on it and broke it. Otherwise you're responsible for your own damn living room furniture.
posted by kindall at 1:18 PM on April 25, 2001

I'll take that as a complement, Skot.

(BTW - your hoverbike, as requested.)
posted by iceberg273 at 1:19 PM on April 25, 2001

I'm with the levee/riverwall skeptics. Floods can be handled by them properly only if they are permanent, impervious, and completely continuous along the entire length of the flood surge. Why is there a flood surge today? Well, because all the land that USED to be there is now occupied and walled off. Floods created, over millennia, the rich soil of the flood plains. Those flood plains are the perfect place for that water. The more walls and levees we put up, the more we artificially reroute waterways, the bigger that flood surge is going to be. That's why we get 100-year floods every couple of years now: there's NO PLACE for the water to go!

I guess I simply advocate a kind of judo approach, and Davenport has actually done some of that: put things like parkland and the baseball stadium in the middle of the flood plain, and use that space to let the water spread out, so the high water isn't so high. Using this theory, Rock Island, those SOBs, are actually causing the Davenport flood with their flood wall. If Rock Island were to open up land in the same way, the river would stay even lower.

But when you have opposite strategies working against each other, so to speak, you end up with recursive blame parties.
posted by dhartung at 1:42 PM on April 25, 2001

Insanity is continuing to do the same thing, while expecting different results" (does anyone know who said that?).

Rita Mae Brown.
posted by dnash at 1:47 PM on April 25, 2001

One thing I was glad to see here in Arizona is our fairly new "idiot laws". If you drive your car through a flooded street or riverbank that is posted as a ROAD CLOSED, you will have to pay for the services of the fire dept., ambulance, tow truck out of your own pocket. This is also true for our outdoor adventurers that climb the mountains and get stranded.
posted by 120degrees at 1:55 PM on April 25, 2001

It was most certainly a compliment, iceberg.

Now if we can just get Davenport to adopt the hover technology, bring in Lando Calrissian as mayor, and bingo, Davenport becomes Cloud City!
posted by Skot at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2001

how about some of that dough for the gas/electric in cali? all industries and people of the 11th largest economy in the world are dying.
posted by elle at 2:20 PM on April 25, 2001

California's problem is hardly a crisis... unless you call an absolute refusal to conserve a crisis.
posted by silusGROK at 2:24 PM on April 25, 2001

Clearly a community with the means to rebuild after a disaster should be required to do so, or at least pay back the federal government any loans. It should also be forced to take any precautions necessary to reduce damages should it occur again, or risk losing federal aid. But I think this stuff shouldn't make us believe that ALL disaster relief is a bad thing, because it really isn't.
posted by Doug at 2:31 PM on April 25, 2001

An absolute refusal to conserve...? WTF? Umm ok last winter, east coast, high prices for heating oil, cha-ching here you go east coast hope that helps.
posted by brian at 3:36 PM on April 25, 2001

Oh. Forgot to thank ndash for the help with that quote.

I'd respond to brian's comment, but can't decipher it...
posted by silusGROK at 3:41 PM on April 25, 2001

Yeah, those pesky Californians. Ranked 48th of 50 states in terms of per-capita energy consumption. Those squanderous rapscallions! Burn the lot of 'em!
posted by youhas at 3:56 PM on April 25, 2001

I live across the river from Davenport and have spent many a day filling sandbags, etc during the other 100 year floods this past decade. I agree that handing out money to people so they can rebuild their houses in danger-prone areas is not the appropriate response. It would be better to make the relief money conditional; they only get it if they find somewhere out of the floodplain to live/do business.

I take issue with the mayor saying that Davenport has a 100 million $ tourism industry based on the river front view. It has a "tourism" industry based on the gambling barges they have tethered to the river bank (which are, as far as I know unaffected by the floodwaters). The money comes almost entirely from the local population, and those few gamblers from out of town are not spending money at other attractions in the city (there are none) Hardly a tourist industry.

But the fact remains that building flood walls is not the responsible answer to this problem. They either burst or exacerbate the flooding downstream, neither of which are helping anyone out. Moving a quarter mile up the river bluff is a more tenable solution. Perhaps a large park/buffer zone running the length of the river on both sides would not only solve the problem with flooding, but also provide an actual reason for tourists to visit the area.
posted by Rockames at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2001

Feel free to tell davenport how you feel:


As for California's energy crisis....I have little sympathy for people who create their own crisis. They have refused to let anyone build power plants in their state. They have refused to let anyone drill for oil off their shoreline. They refuse to pay for electricity at the cost of production. And when northern cali is in the dark, every billboard in LA is still shining bright. I say let them all sweat this summer. Want power for your lights in cali? Turn off your AC. =)
posted by nomisxid at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2001

it's easy to dismiss other people's problems, but if you had to cut back your own power consumption would you be able to?

i'm suffering quite a bit. living in san francisco means higher housing costs, power costs, thank god i don't have to drive. some people here are affluent, yes, most are not. is it fair for people who don't make much to have to pay more?

as for 'creating their own crisis', people are much more apt to pay for people who live in hurricane/tornado country knowing they are hot beds of natural disaster. they are asking for it, too? why do we help them?
posted by elle at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2001

Funny thing about this, and I assume that most have no experience with the Mississippi, but . . . let's just say the Mississippi always finds a way. It'll flood somewhere, it will get the excess out somehow. Right now it's trying to push its way through the Atchafalaya, and cut on through the bayou in Louisiana. From there, it will form a new Delta. It will also leave New Orleans a very different city. I imagine the American people will be called to pay for the mess here. You're paying to keep that disaster from happening right now. You're paying to keep New Orleans from sinking, and to keep it going in a place where there really by all rights shouldn't be a city. And there are huge levees all the way down the Mississippi from Memphis on down, ones you pay for every single day, even if only in cents.

You're also paying for a few excessive Army Corps of Engineers projects, so maybe it all comes out in the wash.
posted by raysmj at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2001

Don't pay them if they don't move. And next flood they will move. No free lunch--lord: I may become a libertarian!
posted by Postroad at 7:10 PM on April 25, 2001

Now, don't do anything crazy, Postroad.
posted by Doug at 7:23 PM on April 25, 2001

nomisxid: Gratuitous link to debunk that some of that convenient-but-false rhetoric.

I'm a creature of the night, though, so I'll take AC over light anyday. :-)
posted by youhas at 12:51 AM on April 26, 2001

Live through enough floods and you won't think about becoming a Libertarian. The problem has been mentioned a couple of times and I'll mention it again: When folks upstream from you build up land in the floodplain, the water's got to go somewhere. That usually means into the homes of the people downstream who may not be able to afford to move. The town next to mine is getting a new Wal-Mart, and they're building it in a field that normally floods a couple of times every year. Of course the developers have the money to truck in ton after ton of fill dirt to build it up past '100 year flood' levels. But the people in my little town who don't even have enough money to have a phone are the ones who are going to get flooded.
posted by owen at 11:45 AM on April 26, 2001

Good point youhas. If you build in a relatively safe area, and then the people upriver overbuild and/or put up levees to push the water further downriver, you shouldn't be blamed.

Maybe Rock Island, Moline, and cities upriver should be compensating Davenport for the effects of their artificial flood walls.
posted by erogers at 1:28 PM on April 26, 2001

Now _that_ would be great, erogers!
posted by silusGROK at 1:55 PM on April 26, 2001

« Older Greenspun Redux.   |   Generation X washed up? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments