“In this moment, I pray the levees hold. But as I look to our future, I know these floods will happen again and sooner than we expect. With this in mind, I call on state and federal agencies to enforce floodplain development laws and bring violators into compliance. Ultimately, the best way to protect people and property is to give rivers room.” — Olivia Dorothy, American Rivers
Statement from Olivia Dorothy, Associate Director for the Upper Mississippi River Basin with American Rivers, based in East Moline, Illinois:
“Preliminary data from the Quad Cities indicates that the Flood of 2019 is worse than the Great Flood of 1993. Water is higher and it is higher for longer. And right now, that water is heading downstream, towards the section of the Mississippi River that American Rivers designated among America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2019 due to poor flood risk management.
We gave the Upper Mississippi River this designation because climate change is driving more extreme flood events and communities along the river desperately need a new flood risk management strategy.
Along this 200-mile stretch of the Mississippi, several levee districts, especially around Burlington, Quincy and Hannibal have raised their levees without the requisite permits and approvals. And during the extreme flood we are experiencing now, their actions have put people and property at risk.
Unlawful levee modifications put lives at risk and add a layer of unpredictability to an already chaotic natural disaster. The state and federal agencies must lead us towards a regional flood risk management strategy that looks beyond the bluffs for solutions to slow water down in the tributaries and incentivizes strategies that make room for the Mighty Mississippi and all its tributaries.
Giving the river room has many benefits. It gets people out of harm’s way, it is usually tens or hundreds of millions dollars cheaper and, if done properly, can restore vital ecosystem functions like water purification.
The best way to protect people and property is to give rivers room.”