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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

We Need More Dikes! Or Do We?

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An interesting examination of alternatives to raising the dykes – or building more of them. As practiced in the Netherlands, where the entire country is in a similar situation to the Lower Mainland

The new strategy has a descriptive name. It’s called “Room for the River.” The name captures the essence of a nine-year, €2.2 billion (C$3.4 billion) program to give the Rhine delta’s residents better protection from future floods while improving the aquatic and riparian environment by, as the name implies, giving the periodic flows of high water more room to spread out over portions of the river’s historic floodplain.

It’s being done several ways:

  • Where it can be done without harming healthy ecosystems, foreshore areas between the river and dikes are being excavated to lower their level and leave more room to hold floodwater.
  • A dozen dikes are being moved further away from the river, again to give the Rhine room to flood; some homes and buildings will be torn down to accommodate the realignment.
  • Land along an upstream reach of the Dutch portion of the river is being set aside as a “last-resort retention area” that will be flooded in extreme high-water emergencies.

And similar strategies are in place elsewhere. Even in the United States

Florida, on its Kissimmee River, and Wisconsin on its Menominee, have implemented similar strategies. After the worst flood ever on the Mississippi, when it breached its levees in some 500 places in 1993, killing 50 people and doing C$18 billion worth of damage, a federal study group recommended giving the Old Man River more room to spread out in future floods …

So have we looked at it?

Making room for rivers to do what comes naturally when their waters run high is neither rocket science nor a novel concept. But remarkably it appears to have been given little if any serious consideration in British Columbia. “I’m not sure how much it’s been looked at,” Steve Litke, the program officer in charge of coordinating flood research and planning at the Fraser Basin Council, confided. “I haven’t seen anything in the last five or 10 years that I’ve been here.”

Why am I not surprised?

Written by Stephen Rees

May 28, 2007 at 9:33 am

Posted in flood watch

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