Monday, 21 January 2013

Urban flooding a Great Lakes regional dilemma

James Dau in Great Lakes Echo: More people in Great Lakes cities are falling victim to urban flooding, some as often as 30 to 40 times in their lifetimes, according to a Chicago-based sustainability nonprofit organization. “We did a brief survey of people in the Chicago region, and we heard some actually devastating stories about flooding from some of them,” said Harriet Festing, director of the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s water program. “We came away from it pretty shocked.”

The September report defines urban flooding as when buildings, streets or open property are inundated by rain, sewage or overflowing bodies of water. Festing characterized the problem in Chicago as not catastrophic, but frequent.

It’s also hidden. Property owners often don’t want to talk about it, she said. “They’re somewhat ashamed of it, having sewage in their living space. They’re afraid of what it might do to their property values.

Chicago flood victims are not alone. The survey led the center to investigate urban flooding across the Great Lakes region. “We wanted to find out if it was more widespread than just Chicago, to see if other cities were suffering the same problem,” Festing said.

Thirty of 48 cities surveyed responded. They represent approximately 19.7 million people, almost 23 percent of the region’s population.

Every city reported flooding, with 80 percent characterizing those issues as medium or large. While most municipalities track flooding, only about half have a plan for dealing with it. Only 20 percent could estimate the cost of flooding damage....

Stillman Creek Flood in Marion, Illinois, in August 2007, shot by Ben Jacobson (Kranar Drogin) stitched by Marku1988, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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