The Stream, April 10, 2020: U.S. Cities Violate Flood Protection Laws and Face Few Penalties, Analysis Finds

The Global Rundown

Local governments around the U.S. frequently violate federal flood protection rules, usually without penalties, a new analysis finds. Low water levels in Argentina’s Parana River force grain exporters to lighten their shipments. New Jersey places enhanced stream protections on 600 miles of waterways. Wisconsin braces as parts of the Mississippi River reach flood stage. A crude oil spill in Ecuador pours into the country’s Coca river. 

“Indigenous communities feel affected because our livelihoods come from hunting and fishing. Our way of life will be seriously affected.” –Holger Gallo, president of the Panduyaku indigenous group in Sucumbios province, Ecuador, in reference to a crude oil spill that contaminated the Coca river earlier this week. The contamination poses a risk for indigenous communities as well as the 45,000 residents of El Coca city, who rely on the river for their drinking water. Officials responsible for the spill said they had deployed six teams in an effort to “contain the spill.” Reuters

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By The Numbers

112,480 Structures in the United States that have been built in violation of federal flood protection regulations since the rules were imposed, according to data gathered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and analyzed by The New York Times. The rules outline which properties can be insured under the federal flood insurance program. They are meant to be enforced by local governments, but in the majority of cases, there have been no penalties for communities that have failed to uphold them. In total, researchers estimate that the structures have led to $1 billion in flood claims over the last 10 years. The New York Times

600 miles Length of waterways in New Jersey that are now under “Category One” stream protections, which heavily limit pollution and sewage discharges and designate a 300-foot protected zone along both sides of the waterway. The newly-protected waterways include a two-mile part of the Cooper River in Camden, the first urban waterway to be granted Category One protections. Yale Environment 360

Science, Studies, and Reports

The Parana River in Argentina is a key waterway for grain shipments in South America, and it is currently at an 11-year low. The low water levels are forcing exporters to minimize the amount of merchandise on ships. Reuters

On the Radar

Several areas along the Mississippi River reached flood stage this week, in line with forecasts by the National Weather Service that predict moderate to major flooding this year. Several communities in Wisconsin are seeing minor flooding, and say they expect the wet conditions to last for up to two weeks. Wisconsin Public Radio


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