Floodplain Development Plugs On in Missouri

<p>Flooding in the Mississippi River floodplain in Missouri caused federal officials to call for the removal of buildings and homes in the threatened area in 1993. But now, development is being allowed in the same flood-prone areas.</p>
March 20, 2008, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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"It's been fifteen years since the Great Flood of 1993 put this land under 10 feet of water. Since then, thousands of acres of floodplain in the St. Louis area have been built up with strip malls, office and industrial parks, and 28,000 new homes. And all this infrastructure depends on miles and miles of levees to hold back the Mississippi and Missouri rivers the next time they try to retake the land."

"If you ignore the historical tendency of the Mississippi and Missouri to periodically drown it, this vast, flat landscape does present an appealing canvas for building."

"In the first blush of post-flood shock, some local and federal officials decided that trying to hold back the Mississippi River was likely to be a costly and never-ending enterprise. Instead of depending on levees and other structures for protection, some thought, it was time to move people's homes and workplaces off the floodplain and cede ground to the river."

"It may have been the greatest exodus of Americans from floodplain homes and businesses in the nation's history."

"But official resolve to depopulate the floodplain has given way to development fever in Missouri: over $2.2 billion worth so far on land that was underwater in 1993. And unlike some of the other states deluged in the Flood of 1993, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, Missouri has been much slower to enact stronger regulations for floodplain development -- perhaps because the state has hundreds of miles of floodplain fronting the Mississippi and Missouri rivers (read: lots of tax income lost and jobs unrealized if new businesses and homes don't get built)."

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Published on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 in Grist
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