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National-local land-use conflicts in floodways of the Mississippi River system

1 Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning 202 Wurster Hall, University of California, Berkeley 94720-2000, USA
2 Collegium-Lyon Institut d’Etudes Avancées, Université de Lyon, 24 rue Jean Baldassini allée A, 2me étage, 69007 Lyon FR

Conflicts between national and local governments over land use in floodplains have been well documented in the US and elsewhere. The US National Flood Insurance Program offers subsidized flood insurance to communities that agree to prevent further development in floodplains, but the requirements are poorly enforced and local governments are commonly reluctant to restrain development on flood-prone lands. In this paper we highlight this problem in particularly sensitive areas: the floodways (or flood bypasses) that are essential components of the Mississippi River flood control system. To properly operate the flood control system, the US Army Corps of Engineers must be able to divert flow from the mainstem Mississippi into the bypasses, thereby lowering stage in the main river, and thus minimizing flooding of cities and other vulnerable areas. However, operation of the Birds-Point-New Madrid Floodway in Missouri was compromised in 2011 by local opposition (and a legal challenge ultimately rejected by the US Supreme Court), and it was finally used to accommodate floodwaters. The West Atchafalaya Floodway in Louisiana experienced a threefold increase in the number of structures within the floodway from about 1970 to 2010. Because of the pattern of flooding, the West Atchafalaya Floodway was not needed in 2011, but if it is needed in the future, its operation may be compromised by the extensive encroachments within the floodway. Thus, operation of critical national infrastructure, designed to deal with floods on an interstate, river-basin scale, is compromised by land-use decisions made at the local level.
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Keywords flood risk management; Mississippi River; 2011 Mississippi River flood; flood bypasses

Citation: G Mathias Kondolf, Pilar Lopez-Llompart. National-local land-use conflicts in floodways of the Mississippi River system. AIMS Environmental Science, 2018, 5(1): 47-63. doi: 10.3934/environsci.2018.1.47


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