California's Flood Risks: A 'Disaster Waiting to Happen'?
Image courtesy of Kevin via flickr
In an effort to avert another Katrina-level disaster, California officials recently commissioned a review panel to evaluate the flood risks facing the state's Central Valley. The results were less than encouraging: According to the panel, chaired by Gerald E. Galloway of the University of Maryland, the area between the Sacramento and San Joaquin river floodplains faces "significant risk of floods that could lead to extensive loss of life and billions of dollars in damages."
At fault, the panel's report indicated, are the area's levees - some built as far back as 150 years ago - which were either poorly built or positioned on unstable foundations. The panel's recommendations center on strategic integration with other basin water management activities and more effective land-use planning.The report cited the recent failure of a levee in Nevada as a troubling sign of the country's rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. The combined effects of climate change and typical wear-and-tear could result in such failures becoming commonplace.
The latest issue of the journal Science contains an article written by Galloway entitled, "Aging Infrastructure and Ecosystem Restoration," which focuses on the challenges facing the country as a whole; in it, Galloway advocates the targeted decommissioning of deteriorated infrastructure alongside the restoration of vulnerable ecosystems.
As we've seen time and time again - most recently in NYC and Minneapolis - poorly constructed bridges and transportation hubs can often yield grim results; in light of the climate-induced changes we can expect to see over the coming decades, it seems as though we should be placing an onus on upgrading on creaking infrastructure.