Our National Environmental Policy is to let nature take its course and that is exactly what is happening with this catastrophic flooding. Blame Congress, not climate change. The dams that would stop this flooding were designed in the 1960’s but they were never built because of the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It is that simple. We are flooding ourselves.
The colossal irony is that a lot of this flooding is in drought prone places. So the water that is hurting us is actually very valuable, if we could store it, which is just what dams do. We are flooding ourselves with valuable water. How stupid is that?
I am reading the news coverage of this terrible tragedy and there is not the slightest hint that it was preventable, which it most surely was. And I am not referring to getting people out of the way by prohibiting living where floods can occur, which is the absurd green solution. We know how to stop these floods, we are just not doing it.
It is not a matter of building monster dams on major rivers. On the contrary it means building a lot of small to medium sized dams on the many tributaries the feed these big rivers. Catch and hold the water in small amounts over a large area, releasing it slowly, even usefully, as in irrigation and hydro power.
By pure coincidence I was there when the U.S. Flood Control Program was killed. As a junior civil engineer I was working my way through graduate school in philosophy of science by helping to design the needed dams.
But NEPA said that we were to minimize “environmental impact.” As it happens, stopping destructive floods is a major environmental impact, a good one in my view, but we were basically barred from interfering with the floods. We were messing with nature and that was now prohibited. I am not making this up.
I am pretty sure that the people who wanted to protect nature, whatever that means, did not think they were protecting destructive floods, but that is what happened. Or maybe some of them did understand that. After all, the green answer to floods is to get out of the way, right? Let the waters roll.
We were denounced as “public enemy number one” by Supreme Court Justice Douglas, in Playboy Magazine no less. This may not sound like much today but the greens were just getting started on their quest for world domination and it hit hard at the time. Senior engineers that I greatly respected quit in disgrace after many decades of service.
The point is that these awful floods do not have to happen. I cannot say it simpler than that. We know how to stop these floods and we can use the water when we do. We are flooding ourselves in valuable water.