The mindset of everyone involved in the life of the Mississippi River needs to shift from flood protection to flood-plain management if Davenport and hundreds of other cities along the Mississippi River (with or without floodwalls/levees) hope to reduce future flooding and flood damage.
Numerous studies have shown floodwalls/levees built along the Mississippi in the past 100 years have pushed up flood levels as more water is restricted into a smaller and smaller channel.
More recent information suggests the use of drain tiles by farmers, increased urban development, and continued loss of wetlands accelerate runoff and push steams and rivers higher and faster than ever before.
Focusing on flood-plain management has earned Davenport the distinction as "the largest city on the Upper Mississippi River without flood protection."
Davenport should not shirk from that description. We should use our notoriety as a catalyst for changing how we and others view the Mississippi River basin and the policies and practices that affect America's greatest river.
The city need not apologize for its decision to pursue flood-plain management rather than floodwalls and levees. Flood-prone homes have been purchased, businesses have relocated out of the flood plain, and new structures built in the flood plain have been flood-proofed.
The questions should not be about what decision the city made 20 years ago but the actions of other cities and residents along the Mississippi that have contributed to the flood-protection "arms race."
We should ask how to better fund farm programs to retain and restore wetlands. We should ask how farm programs and practices encourage the use of tiling to drain rainfall from fields.
We should ask if there should be standards to control urban stormwater runoff by all communities, not only along the Mississippi but all of its tributaries.
And we should ask why so little attention and so few dollars are spent on flood- prevention measures such as wetlands as opposed to flood-protection structures that drive the river ever higher.
Our community has been a good steward to the river, its residents, and the American taxpayer by focusing on flood-plain management rather than flood control.
We need to take that story to all communities and residents of the Mississippi River basin, and seek funding and actions that better manage our flood plain and watershed and address the root causes of our increased flooding on the Mississippi River.
Even those communities with large and high floodwalls should be seeking answers to Davenport's flooding, because if answers aren't found and actions aren't taken to better manage the river basin and watershed, the water will keep rising.
Kathy Wine is executive director of River Action, Inc.
River Action, headquartered in Davenport, is a not-for-profit citizen-action group dedicated to fostering the environmental, economic, and cultural vitality of the Mississippi River and its riverfront in the Quad City region. Its Web site is (http://www.riveraction.org).
Mississippi River Resources
The Web offers a multitude of resources on the problems and challenges facing the Mississippi River. Below are several URLs for articles and sites dealing with the river, in particular the role that agricultural runoff on the Mississippi plays in the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone."