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MMSD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR KEVIN SHAFER: FLOODING IN HOUSTON

2017-08-29 10:12:21

I’ve been asked by many people my thoughts on hurricane Harvey.  What would happen if it occurred here? What can we do to prevent it from happening?

As I have watched the storm unfold, I realize that we cannot build traditional infrastructure large enough to withstand this type of storm.  It is cost prohibitive and in the end futile because there will always be a larger storm in the future.

What we can do is make sure that our infrastructure, all infrastructure, is resilient and able to respond quickly to minimize the impacts to our public.  Emergency action plans are critical to insure we know how to respond in the middle of the crisis.  Good maintenance of our systems is also critical, so equipment works when it can.  But I also feel we need to change the way we develop our cities.  We cannot build our way out of events like this.  However, if we get homes and businesses out the floodplain, preserve open space in low areas, take steps to reduce impervious cover, manage some water where it falls and try to work with nature, I think we can reduce the storms long term impacts.  Green infrastructure, Greenseams®, and flood management are all steps that MMSD has initiated in the Milwaukee region that will make a difference.  These newer approaches compliment a very robust grey infrastructure that includes the tunnel, sewers, and our water reclamation facilities.

All of these steps will help mitigate, but not eliminate storms like Harvey. And no matter what, a good prayer always helps.