The real reason the levees had to be raised in Sioux Falls

As I said all along, this is the REAL reason the levees had to be raised;

Once the flood-control measures are in place, probably by the end of next year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will redo its flood-plain maps and. In turn, fewer properties will be in the flood plain – saving money for property owners.

Walmart, Sam’s Club, The Empire Mall, Target are some of the businesses” that will be taken out of the flood plain, said project manager Tom Berkland.

Instead of worrying about the 1% chance that Walfart might get flooded we should have been more concerned about all the poopy in people’s basements. And isn’t that the crux of it all? While we received record rains, besides a little street flooding, no where along the river (within Sioux Falls) there was flooding. Imagine that!?

It’s not only a state policy but a city policy;

“Big Business first, citizens second.”



15 comments ↓

#1 Jim on 08.30.10 at 4:39 am

So then you think that if the levies crested that the sewer failure would not have happened? Look around and you’ll see that countless families will benefit, not just businesses. And if you had any experience with FEMA and floodplains, you would realize it is all insanely silly and that FEMA is a screwed up agency.

#2 l3wis on 08.30.10 at 4:45 am

Oh, trust me Jim, this is an over reaction by FEMA because of Katrina. But instead of wasting $55 million in taxpayer dough to fix something that isn’t broke, why not get our Washington delegation to tell FEMA to go to Hell.

#3 Sy on 08.30.10 at 9:10 am

Sure, the property values of those businesses dwarf the values of the surrounding residential neighborghoods, hence the motivation to get it done.

But residents benefit from this another way. How much revenue would the City lose out on if the Mall area is underwater for a week? How many people would be out of work and how much sales tax revenue would the City lose? Moreover, those businesses that were forced to buy flood insurance either had to pass that through as COGS or the landlord tacked it on to their rent, which has the same effect. These things can have a chilling effect on those looking to build a new store out by the Mall.

I know of one business that’s trying to open and this issue has stalled their plans as they weigh the cost of flood insurance vs. raising their site 3 ft to get around it.

#4 Dave R on 08.30.10 at 10:17 am

Raising the levees was a good idea in any case. I agree that we should be improving our sewers rather than building new Events centers.

#5 l3wis on 08.30.10 at 11:04 am

You are right Sy, but like I said above, the possibility of it flooding isn’t the issue – it’s FEMA making up a floodplain that doesn’t really exist. You would think a little pressure from our DC delegation could have fixed this or at least get FEMA to take another look at it.

#6 Ghost of Dude on 08.30.10 at 11:05 am

The real reason FEMA has been changing the flood maps to include more property lately is that flood insurance has been a black hole for money in the last few years and they need more coming in to pay all the claims. If they include properties that are extremely unlikely to flood, they’ll get their premiums, but probably will never pay a claim.

#7 anominous on 08.30.10 at 5:27 pm

Keep building those big parking lots! Nothing to see here!

#8 John2 on 08.30.10 at 6:56 pm

The pathetic thing is that these are man-made disasters. There should never be development in a natural flood plain. There should never be publicly funded insurance or bailouts for dolts who build in a natural flood plain.

Just look to New Orleans. The 1980s hurricane was far greater than Katrina but only flooded 20% of the city. Katrina, was a far lesser storm but flooded 80% of New Orleans because the levees built in the interim were CRAP. Water 1, engineers 0. Repeat.

#9 Scott on 08.30.10 at 8:16 pm

John, the problem is the definition of a floodplain constantly changes. One of my family’s locations has been in the same spot for 30 years. No floodplain designation; no water incidents. Three years ago (or whenever it was) we were suddenly mandated to buy $4,000/year flood insurance only because of this need to raise flood proceeds.

#10 Costner on 08.31.10 at 7:15 am

Conspiracy theories aside, the primary reason FEMA has changed flood maps is because they now have much more accurate ways of surveying topography.

Decades ago before GPS and modern surveying equipment, it was a laborious process and was prone to human error. These days, one man can walk around with a GPS enabled survey rod and determine elevations within 1/100th of an inch. They can even ride around on an ATV with a GPS probe and survey large masses of ground in a few short hours whereas decades ago it would have taken weeks and been less accurate.

Truth be told, the FEMA maps are simply more accurate. This isn’t to say those areas were any more prone to flooding than they were in the past, but if Katrina taught us anything it is that people won’t buy flood insurance unless it is mandated, and then we (as taxpayers) are left on the hook when something goes wrong.

So do I fault FEMA for updating their maps? Not in the slightest. However as DL said, our delegation should have pushed back upon FEMA to take a second look and determine what really makes sense. We can look at 50 year flood levels, 100 year flood levels, or 500 year flood levels, but what really makes sense?

If nothing else, the levee project could have waited until the feds ponied up the money. Contrary to what our previous mayor tried to convince us of, this was not an immediate need and we were not in danger with the previous levees. This was merely a handout to those in the flood plain to prevent them from having to buy some insurance, coupled with some nice contracts being passed out to various earth moving contractors.

I guess we can just call it a local stimulus, but clearly some contractors are doing very well this year as a direct result of the levee project.

All of that being said, (and I know I’ve mentioned this before) the levees didn’t help us this year because the rain actually hit us directly. The levees are actually designed to control flood waters from the river that stem from rains farther to the North. Thus, if there is record rainfall farther North and all of that storm water comes rushing to Sioux Falls, then the levees will serve their purpose (which may occur once every 300 years or so), but this particular summer is not a good example of what the levees are meant to control, so we can’t really use that as a legitimate argument against their construction.

#11 Tom H. on 08.31.10 at 8:27 am

If you’re upset that the city is choosing to raise levees to protect the big box stores along Louise Avenue and the Mall, you need to rethink what you’re upset at. The 41st & Louise area is the biggest money-making tax-base the city has. Of course it has to protect it. What we should be upset about is that our method of development and city planning puts all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak. Small businesses do NOT keep the Sioux Falls economy going – the Mall does. Downtown is the only area where small, independent, non-chain shops and restaurants survive, and even there it is mostly a novelty.

#12 l3wis on 08.31.10 at 8:34 am

Who employees the most people in SF? Small businesses do. Who keeps our neighborhoods clean? Homeowners and small business owners. While the big box stores obviously contribute, they aren’t the only piece of the pie.

#13 Costner on 08.31.10 at 8:38 am

Who employees the most people in SF? Small businesses do.

Between large banking/credit card operations and our two largest hospitals… I’m not so sure that is true.

Sort of a moot point however, I don’t even remotely buy that the levee project was about the mall or Wal-mart. The people complaining the loudest were homeowners who were forced to buy flood insurance, and even that probably wasn’t the key justification.

#14 l3wis on 08.31.10 at 10:40 am

Like I said from the beginning, this is about FEMA and their bullshit. Everyone keeled over to them. The mayor, the council, our DC delegation, and the CORP of Engineers, even though they all knew the floodplain was poppycock. And who has to pay for it? We do.

#15 anominous on 08.31.10 at 8:48 pm

Yay mall!

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