Monday, September 04, 2017

Things Change

I get this via Slacktivist, and since the reservoirs have become my hobby horse (if you watched PBS Newshour tonight, you saw victims of those reservoirs, that "excellent" flood control system), I have to raise a negative to this positive assessment:

3) Addicks and Barker reservoirs are the best flood control investment ever made in the Houston region, combining large land areas and high levees to impound water upstream of the heart of the city. But these dams are currently in bad shape and are rated as two of the six most dangerous dams in the United States due to structural issues that are compounded by the large population protected by them. The protection and restoration of these dams is a major priority that must be taken forward. Even more important is the fact that over the 60 or more years that they have been protecting us, they have slowly been filling with dirt and sediment from stored storm water. The capacity of these reservoirs could be increased substantially by removing this accumulation, and we should do it. There is at least one new reservoir that should be constructed in northwest Harris County that can help on flooding along Cypress Creek, Bear Creek and Buffalo Bayou. It should be pursued as soon as possible, and other upstream locations should be found on virtually every stream in our region

The condition of those reservoirs after 82 years is not the problem; the dependence on them as flood control, indeed even still calling them "the best flood control investment ever made in the Houston region," is the problem.  The neighborhoods on the PBS Newshour tonight are being flooded because of those reservoirs, not in spite of them.  Flood control for the next six weeks or more in a large area of west Houston is going to mean dam control, because if the reservoirs are not emptied at a record rate, the dams will fail and be destroyed.  To save the dams, we are flooding neighborhoods, and flooding them for weeks, not days, even for months, not weeks.  Indeed, increasing their capacity would just increase the longevity of the flooding downstream the next time a storm like this happens.  Houston has already had two "500 year storms" in two years, prior to Harvey.  What are the odds we don't get another one soon, maybe even before hurricane season ends this year?

This is no longer flood control, and it cannot be justified as the best investment Houston ever made.  It's a disaster Houston ignored and now, as the woman whose house stands in four feet of water says, its made those homeowners the sacrificial lambs for the rest of the region.

If that's a good investment, I'd hate to see a bad one.

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