The fight for floodplains
December 24, 2012
Before Hurricane Sandy struck this fall, the National Flood Insurance Program was already about $17.8 billion in debt — an amount that will surely grow as Sandy-related claims are settled.
But floodplain development has ecological consequences, too, which are the crux of lawsuits that have been filed against the EPA up and down the West Coast.
Lisa Stiffler reports for InvestigateWest in the current issue of High Country News:
“Every time it rains,” she says, “you’re stressing.” At least five times since she and her husband, Brian, moved here, heavy rains have sent the river raging over its banks. After a 1995 flood, they raised the house on a 9-foot-tall concrete foundation. Then a 2003 flood dumped enough mud in their basement to fill 60 wheelbarrows. “Goopy, gloppy, sticky stuff,” she says. “It’s horrible.”
Many of her neighbors’ houses are also perched on stacked foundations, and attempts have been made to barricade the river with levees. But the most effective flood-protection measures have proven to be strict rules on reconstruction and a ban on new building enacted by the state decades ago, restrictions that apply only to a handful of the state’s most flood-prone areas.
Now the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups want to see stronger development controls for more Western floodplains. It’s increasingly clear that construction in floodplains is not only dangerous for people, it also harms habitat for salmon and other animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, including orca, Mexican spotted owls, jaguar and two species of springsnails. And the anxiety over floodplain construction is likely to rise as climate change raises flood risks.
Wealth & Poverty | February 2013
“It was just common knowledge – when you turn 18, you’re done,” Sharayah Lane said. “After the checks stopped coming, we all went our separate ways."
End of the Line is a new series by Claudia Rowe asking what happens when teens get too old for foster care in Washington State.
Photo Credit: Jon Connell/Flickr
Environment | January 2013
Meet America's newest sharecroppers. Guys like Jared Bright who vie for control of the Pacific fishing industry's lower rungs, the only rungs that seem to be left. They don't own the halibut, not even when it lands in their boats.
Lee van der Voo uncovers absentee landlords, brokers and bankers, and fish quota that costs more than your house — realities that fly in the face of more official, rosy portrayals.
Health | November 2012
Kids with multiple sclerosis, historically an adult disorder, offer researchers a set of intriguing new clues about the disease that could lead, eventually, to better treatments.
With adolescent MS on the rise in the Northwest, Carol Smith meets a young patient who is learning to live with the disease at the age of 16, and the doctors and scientists trying to keep her healthy.
Environment | October 2012
In 1972, Congress enacted legislation to end water pollution. Forty years later, American rivers and lakes are still badly contaminated, and new threats to clean water are outpacing the Act's enforcers. Follow along as InvestigateWest and EarthFix investigate.
Environment | June 2012
As local governments trade away public parkland, the safeguards put in place by the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect that land are full of holes.
Public Health | January 2012
The Prescription Epidemic
As Washington enacts the strongest prescription drug law in the country, InvestigateWest presents a six-month investigation into the origins of the prescription epidemic, the challenge it poses for communities, and what lessons other states might learn.