Thursday, January 26, 2006

Before the Deluge

Alarmed by the impact of the flooding of New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina's wake, and no doubt mindful of the court ruling holding the state of California liable for 100s of millions of dollars in damages wrought by flooding in the Yuba County in 1986, Democrats in the California Assembly yesterday introduced legislation that would require local governments to certify that new developments have "200-year flood protection" and that homeowners living in areas lacking such protection must have flood insurance.

In response, sadly predictably, Tim Coyle, senior vice president of the California Building Industry Association, described the proposed legislation as "the same old anti-growth policies that ignore the realities of this state and the needs of our current residents."

I realize that floods are good for the construction industry, but goddam, just how greedy and heartless do you have to be to put your desires to make a buck over the safey of the people of California? As has been amply demonstrated quite graphically, floods kill people, destroy homes, and ruin lives. As much as Mr. Coyle would apparently like to get his hands on the reconstruction money that will be available following a catastrophic flood, wouldn't it more accurately "reflect the realities of this state" and serve "the needs of our current residents" to try not to build homes in areas that are likely to be devastated by floods?

Large areas of California's central valley, for millenia a flood plain, are protected from the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Mokelumne rivers by an extensive system of dikes and levees. As exhibited in New Orleans and repeatedly farther north along the Mississippi River, these systems will eventually fail. The Napa and Russian rivers have flooded extensively about twice a decade for the last twenty years. Wouldn't it be reflective of the realities of the state to recognize that? Wouldn't it serve the needs of the state's residents to not allow building in areas vulnerable to riverine flooding?
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