Davenport Close To Model For River Cities

On April 25th, Environmental Defense released the following statement by senior

attorney Tim Searchinger about flooding on the Mississippi River and

Davenport, Iowa:

“In recent days, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joseph

Allbaugh has blamed Davenport, Iowa, for failing to build a floodwall and has

suggested that federal taxpayers are subsidizing Davenport’s ‘aesthetics.’ On

this point, Director Allbaugh is dangerously misinformed. History has shown

that levees mean more damages overall because they encourage floodplain


“While not perfect, Davenport, Iowa, is close to a model for how towns along

large rivers should deal with the inevitable floods. It does not have a

floodwall, but for the most part, it has cleared buildings from frequently

flooded areas and uses these areas for parks. In 1993, when floods caused

more than $12 billion in damages in the region, Davenport suffered only a few

million dollars in damage. The vast bulk of damages occurred instead where

floodwaters overtopped floodwalls and levees and destroyed the homes,

airports and infrastructure built in the false security of a levee. In 1993,

Chesterfield, Missouri, alone suffered hundreds of millions in damages. By not

building a floodwall, Davenport has avoided these tragic mistakes.

“In addition to cutting the city off from the river, the millions of dollars a

floodwall would cost make little economic sense precisely because Davenport

has kept most buildings out of harm’s way. A cheaper solution is simply to

remove or floodproof the remaining 100 or so flood-damaged buildings.

“Davenport could yet improve. Although it relocated many buildings after the

flood of 1993, a number of damaged homes were rebuilt in the floodplain.

Director Allbaugh is right that the federal government should not pay over and

over again to rebuild these homes. Relocation or floodproofing is the answer.

Director Allbaugh deserves credit for his proposals to reform the flood

insurance program.

“The flood of 1993 caused its billions in damages despite billions of dollars in

private and public levees. By contrast, relocation after 1993 has truly worked.

Davenport needs a little more relocation, not a flood wall,” said Searchinger.

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