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Thread: Should we rebuild in flood zones???

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Should we rebuild in flood zones???

    Here's an op-ed piece that's specifically about Superstorm Sandy and rebuilding after it, but I think that it's something that we should all consider, not just those who live along coasts: After Sandy.

    IIRC, back in the 1990s (or maybe it was during GWB's first term), the feds attempted to convince owners along the Missouri or Mississippi River to consider relocation after a particularly nasty flooding episode. I'm NOT sure how successful that policy was.

    Relocating people rather than letting them rebuild in flood prone areas is something that I'm in favor of. I'm tired of having my tax dollars in various forms go to the same people to rebuild every few years because of flooding. For myself, I wouldn't buy in a flood way, and I sure wouldn't rebuild. I'd be willing to give these people twice the value of their flood insurance for them to build new outside the flood zone. I'd be willing to have the feds give outright grants to get the people out of harm's way. If you want to rebuild after a flood, then find your own insurance or go without. I'm willing to help people hit by disaster, but when you deliberately put yourself back in harm's way, then you're on your own.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I might be wrong, but...

    I believe that all of the rebuilds need to meet current flood standards for people in the community to continue to qualify for flood insurance.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I believe that all of the rebuilds need to meet current flood standards for people in the community to continue to qualify for flood insurance.
    I think you're right. But there's probably still a cost involved to the public when it comes to emergency relief efforts.
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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The big problem with rebuilding in the floodplain, even if you rebuild high enough to qualify for flood insurance, is you are putting a big obstruction in the floodplain. So your house may be safer, but the people downstream have to deal with the changes your building footprint and all the other building footprints in flood-prone areas have made to alter the floodplain.

    Coastal areas hit by tidal surges are different. You can have a home or summer homes that is well out of the high tide zone but a hurricane comes along and brings nine or more feet of water. My family had a camp on Grand Isle, Louisiana, which gets hit a lot by hurricanes. The camp is built on a gulf-front lot. My grandfather had the good sense to build it ten feet off the ground - essentially on stilts. It has survived every hurricane since 1947. We sold it years ago but it is still going strong. I think my rule of thumb would be if you can see the ocean, build ten feet high. If you can smell the ocean, your house should not be built on a slab foundation, maybe not ten feet up but at least four or five feet.
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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    The big problem with rebuilding in the floodplain, even if you rebuild high enough to qualify for flood insurance, is you are putting a big obstruction in the floodplain. So your house may be safer, but the people downstream have to deal with the changes your building footprint and all the other building footprints in flood-prone areas have made to alter the floodplain.
    .
    Well there a difference between a flood plain and a flood way. I might also be wrong on this but I do believe that the flood plain is the area that might flood but will not actually have moving flood waters that are susceptible to the changes from building footprints, so structures can be built or rebuilt above the flood plain and be okay. In a floodway the building footprint and mass (like an ice-cube in a glass of water) can affect the floodways and floodplain downstream. So rebuilding in the floodway areas require mitigation to account for the impact of the structure on changing the moving flood waters.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    The problem, of course, is that if you try to educate people about rebuilding in flood zones or if you try to regulate construction too much, all the tin-foil hats come out and hoot and hollar about 'gubement restrictin' their rights to do what they want with their property.

    It is really a lose-lose, damned if you do and damned if you don't situation. People want (demand may be a more accurate term) help in times of crises, but they also don't want people to tell them what to do, or want to spend their precious tax dollars to support any program whatsoever that helps other people... until they need help. Personally, I think people should be warned and if they have all the information to make an informed decision and chose to build in a dangerous area, they should be left to their own devices. In reality, however, you end up with a situation like the one last year when the firefighters let a family's house burn down because they didn't pay for firefighting services and half the nation goes up in arms over it.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I think a lot of places are always going to have some degree of flood risk but I don't think that's enough to stop building in those locations. There are some places though that are in excessively high risk areas and I don't think those areas should be rebuilt. The example that comes to my mind is the Outer Bank of North Carolina where hurricanes come through and do significant damage on a regular basis.

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Some towns have started to buy houses that are in areas that flood routinely here in NJ. At some point you have to ask yourself if it's worth it to continue to repair or rebuild. With the coastal areas up for rebuilding....there's a lot of opportunity to do the right thing, however this being New Jersey it's probably not going to happen without a huge fight. CAFRA is the land use regulation that governs development at the shore but it's so full of loopholes, exemptions, and grandfathering that it's not really effective. I am sure that Tide could tell you a whole lot more about those issues.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Interesting Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mitch-mcewen/ny-flood-infrastructure_b_2092283.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=2689878,b=facebook]Don't Rebuild: Redesign[/URL]


    Now that we have gotten past the election, perhaps New Yorkers and the rest of the country are ready to talk honestly and admit that sandbags in urban flood-zones are just not good enough.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I believe that all of the rebuilds need to meet current flood standards for people in the community to continue to qualify for flood insurance.
    That is how it is here and our local standards are very strict... we will not even issue a permit unless they get a LOMA first or get a variance from City Council after proving that the new structure meet all the state and federal 'build in floodplain' regulations.

    I have mixed feelings on it and see the good and the bad of building in a flood zone. Personally, I made sure that my current house is not even close to the flood zone. However when my wife and I retire to NC that will be a different story. (I like boats).

    I guess it comes down to my nature. When someone asks me a question if they can do something, the answer is never no. I make sure that they understand all of the alternatives and processes available right up to requesting an amendment to the ZO.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I couldn't get this link to work, but I found the article in question here: Don't Rebuild: Redesign

    I don't disagree. However, I have to question the long-term feasibility of building reefs, levees, floodgates, etc. in the face of rising sea levels. We've seen over the many decades of flooding in the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Valleys that these fail can fail under extreme conditions. Building breakwaters and reefs will also have unknown environmental impacts.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus
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    USA Today editorials -

    Federal flood insurance subsidizes risks

    here's the flaw: The program's premiums don't reflect the actual risks, especially in an era of rising sea levels and extreme weather. As a result, federal insurance has encouraged developers to overbuild in risky areas, buyers to purchase there and residents to rebuild even after repeated flooding.
    then you could click on their
    OPPOSING VIEW: Program fills insurance gaps
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Perhaps the more important question is whether the country should be providing additional insurance options for structures in a floodplain. If you want to build, go ahead. But no special insurance from the government.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    NC12 is the main highway along North Carolina's Outer Banks (OBX), It has been washed over many times during storms & hurricanes and is rebuilt everytime. There are also many vacation homes out there. The link is NCDOT's flickerstream (a part of their ongoing public communication outreach) and the first page shows the recent storm damage near Rodanthe.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncdot/

    Here's the deal. NC12 was just repaired/repaved a year ago. Pavement was still 'new' and in one of the pictures you'll see the temporary bridge NCDOT installed.

    Should people be allowed to rebuild? No.
    Should they have been allowed to build in the first place? No.
    These are basically big sand bars the have a tendency to move.
    Will the state let them rebuild? Yes. Tourism is a big chuck of the state's economy so I guess they think the tourism dollars pay for reconstruction each time.
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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planit View post
    NC12 is the main highway along North Carolina's Outer Banks (OBX), It has been washed over many times during storms & hurricanes and is rebuilt everytime. There are also many vacation homes out there. The link is NCDOT's flickerstream (a part of their ongoing public communication outreach) and the first page shows the recent storm damage near Rodanthe.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncdot/

    Here's the deal. NC12 was just repaired/repaved a year ago. Pavement was still 'new' and in one of the pictures you'll see the temporary bridge NCDOT installed.

    Should people be allowed to rebuild? No.
    Should they have been allowed to build in the first place? No.
    These are basically big sand bars the have a tendency to move.
    Will the state let them rebuild? Yes. Tourism is a big chuck of the state's economy so I guess they think the tourism dollars pay for reconstruction each time.
    The thing is, it's NOT just state tourism $$$ that pays for the reconstruction of storm-devastation on the OBX. It's a lot of federal $$$, too -- over and over and over again all up and down the coast.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Orrin H. Pilkey opinion piece in the NY Times:

    We Need to Retreat From the Beach
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/op...reat.html?_r=0

    Some very valuable property will have to be abandoned to make the community less vulnerable to storm surges. This is tough medicine, to be sure, and taxpayers may be forced to compensate homeowners. But it should save taxpayers money in the long run by ending this cycle of repairing or rebuilding properties in the path of future storms.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
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    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

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    NY Times article: As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why

    Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas.

    “The best thing that could possibly come out of Sandy is if the political establishment was willing to say, ‘Let’s have a conversation about how we do this differently the next time,’ ” said Dr. Young, a coastal geologist who directs the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University

    A coalition in Washington called SmarterSafer.org, made up of environmentalists, libertarians and budget watchdogs, contends that the subsidies have essentially become a destructive, unaffordable entitlement.
    SmarterSafer.org website: http://www.smartersafer.org/

    noticed a certain planning org is not a member.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Having worked extensively in flood-impacted areas since Katrina, I can say that the issue is very complex. a majority of the flooded areas in the upper Great Plains in 2011 lay outside of the 100-year floodplain. The same was true of areas flooded by Irene in the Northeast. While there was quite a bit of construction in floodplains in impacted areas of the Dakotas, these neighborhoods were protected by levees that, in a normal flood situation, would have been sufficient. They simply were not able to deal with the massive volume of water generated in these floods, and were overtopped. What is the right approach? On the one hand we could say "no" to rebuilding, in the process leveling the communities' historic neighborhoods and downtowns, cutting wide gree swaths to divide the town, displacing residents and businesses, and replacing it all with vinyl-clad cookie-cutter homes in soulless suburban tracts. On the other hand we can rebuild "just as it was" and then wait twenty years or so until the next massive flood. The reality is that we need to assess each instance individually to determine the best options for rebuilding, sometimes in place with better engineering, and sometimes through relocation.
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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Orrin H. Pilkey opinion piece in the NY Times:

    We Need to Retreat From the Beach
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/op...reat.html?_r=0
    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    NY Times article: As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why

    SmarterSafer.org website: http://www.smartersafer.org/

    noticed a certain planning org is not a member.
    Excellent pieces, and I agree with both. If anything good could come from the disaster that was Sandy, it would be a consensus that storm-prone areas shouldn't be rebuilt and/or developed at all.

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Having worked extensively in flood-impacted areas since Katrina, I can say that the issue is very complex. a majority of the flooded areas in the upper Great Plains in 2011 lay outside of the 100-year floodplain. The same was true of areas flooded by Irene in the Northeast. While there was quite a bit of construction in floodplains in impacted areas of the Dakotas, these neighborhoods were protected by levees that, in a normal flood situation, would have been sufficient. They simply were not able to deal with the massive volume of water generated in these floods, and were overtopped. What is the right approach? On the one hand we could say "no" to rebuilding, in the process leveling the communities' historic neighborhoods and downtowns, cutting wide gree swaths to divide the town, displacing residents and businesses, and replacing it all with vinyl-clad cookie-cutter homes in soulless suburban tracts. On the other hand we can rebuild "just as it was" and then wait twenty years or so until the next massive flood. The reality is that we need to assess each instance individually to determine the best options for rebuilding, sometimes in place with better engineering, and sometimes through relocation.
    I totally agree. River/stream flooding is a little different ocean storm flooding, too, because there are some actions that can be taken to significantly mitigate flooding. Levees are the tried and true method, and they have generally worked except in the worse floods. So are massive flood control dams, which are fairly common in the hilly areas of upstate NY and northwest PA.

    I think another big difference is that most coastal development is upscale seasonal residences whereas most living people in flood prone river valleys tend to be full-time residents, and frequently poorer people. Since politicians tend to push poor people around and kowtow to the wealthy, I suspect that governments might move on NOT rebuilding in river valleys rather than along the shorelines.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Here's another article on rebuilding barrier islands, this time Fire Island south of Long Island, after Sandy's designation: Future of Fire Island
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    One major issue is that once you build flood protection, people will swarm to build outside of it on 'bargain' land, then demand that you expand it to cover them. This is one of the reasons that I think a few key libertarian ideas would be a good thing - if you can honestly say "We don't have authority to expand the levys outside of our boundary, and you're a suburb. You need to pay your city council to build your own levy system. Oh, and good luck getting private flood insurance from your bank, we're not allowed to do that either" might put a damper on such things. There is some merit to the old days when it was best practice to send troops on horseback to put everything built outside of the city walls to the torch in that regard.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Considering the gargantuan level of planning in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I'm surprised that this thread has not been moved to "Make No Small Plans."

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