Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bill Crawford: Flood Spotlights Need for Strategic Policy Thinking

Politicians tend to be adept at tactical political thinking. How do I win the next election? How do I get this project my financial backers want approved? How do I keep special interest groups on my side? And so on.

Strategic policy thinking to solve systemic and long-term problems, well that’s another story.


Effective government, however, cannot be singularly driven by tactical political thinking. Strategic policy thinking has a critical role.

As state and local officials assess the decimating impact of the 2020 Pearl River flood, flood control is an appropriate example of the need for strategic policy thinking.

Flood control and prevention seldom occupy public officials’ minds…until a flood happens. Of course, then, all the tactical political thinking in the world is too late to help the victims.

Flood control and prevention require rigorous, strategic thinking over time, and hard, often costly decisions at the federal, state and local levels.

Our more elderly leaders will remember the construction of Sardis, Arkabutla, Enid, and Grenada Lakes as flood control projects. These were made possible by the federal Flood Control Act of 1937, a reaction to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The multi-million dollar project took two decades to complete, starting with Sardis in the 1930s, followed by Arkabutla and Enid, and concluding with Grenada in 1954. Hard decisions included completely relocating the Town of Coldwater.

Following the great Easter Flood on the Pearl River in 1979, numerous flood control and prevention ideas were proposed. But, as WLBT reported in 2016, none were implemented. The latest is the $355 million One Lake project which, while primarily an economic development project, would also provide flood control benefits.

(Many think the Ross Barnett Reservoir is a flood control lake. But it was built in the 1960s primarily as a water supply source with potential economic development as a major factor.)

Until this month, Pearl River flooding occupied few leaders’ minds. Now, for a while, it will. The One Lake project appears to have been rigorously planned, but will federal, state, and local leaders agree on the hard and costly decisions needed to build it? Is it comprehensive enough?

You would hope so. But other strategic policy solutions based on rigorous study have fizzled due to tactical political thinking. The most prominent, of course, is the Mississippi Economic Council’s 2015 study of roads and bridges (https://exceleratems.com/). The study documented maintenance needs and proposed solutions. The conservative Tax Foundation concurred in the method to fund needed repairs. Efforts to raise fuel taxes fell prey to tactical political thinking that taxpayers would un-elect Republican leaders.

Then there are systemic problems that most politicians don’t seriously study much less resolve. Aging water and sewer systems, aging public school facilities, and a stressed trauma care system are examples.

You would think that a state that ranks 50th in so many areas would make strategic policy thinking a top priority. Regrettably, politicians these days seldom turn to studies or rely on objective experts to craft solutions. The consequence is ineffective government and worsening systemic problems.

The only ray of hope I see is Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. He gets it.

“Make plans by seeking advice” - Proverbs 20:18.


Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The only ray of hope I see is Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. He gets it."

Meaning he is willing, perhaps eager, to raise the fuel tax. Politicians will start taking the long look as soon as the voters make them.

Anonymous said...

One lake is not a flood control project. The sellers of the plan will tell you it will solve the road/bridge/ water/sewer/ flooding/ COVID 19 or anything else you need fixed. It is a private project that wants federal/state funds to reward a few property owners. Ask the Corps of Engineers or an independent 3rd party how to build a flood control project. The only educated advocates for One Lake are the ones getting paid to advocate for it.

For the cost of the One Lake project, you could purchase all the homes in the flood zone In Jackson and relocate the property owners.

Anonymous said...

There are a bunch of white enviromental liberals who would gladly sacrifice the financial security and physical well-being of black and brown people for turtles and fish. The people who are in the most need of flood control right now are black and brown people in Jackson. They live in the most affected areas.

Anonymous said...

Ladd completely unhinged on NextDoor about One Lake. Her need to control freaky the discussion is maniacal.

Anonymous said...

@11: 25 Why didn’t you respond to @10:26 ???Is it too hard to comprehend that relocation out of the flood plain and having no future cost for levee and pump maintenance and still having money left over is a better and permanent plan? Maybe cause nobody would pay you to pimp their project. Getting those black and brown people out of previously flooded houses that will be hard to resell or get good loans is the most humane thing to do. It is very obvious by the news coverage that black and brown people were the most damaged. Wonder why??Could it be they were the most vulnerable to buy in those areas that rich white folks avoided. Maybe its like the plantation owners in the lower delta using the innocent flood victims last year telling them that they would not have had in floodwater had they built the pumps.. Anyone ever see a rich plantation owners house flood?

Anonymous said...

Oh and one more thing @11:25 I’m not a white environmental liberal——just a RINO that pays a lot of taxes due to wasteful federal government spending.

Flood Control - No Friggin' Way! said...

Calling One Lake "flood control" is a smoke screen for a project that would enrichen a few greedy people with OUR MONEY.

$375,000,000 divided by 500 homes flooded would provide $750,000 per homeowner, oR $375,000 for 1,000 homeowners.

Beef up the levee system, but building a shallow lake for flood control? GTFOOH. It would not even have a real dam, but rather a weir.

IT'S A SCAM!

FIX THE FRIGGIN' ROADS AND OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE if y'all feel so generous!

Anonymous said...

Proverbs 29;18(KJV)-"Where there is no vision, the people perish..." Jackson, Mississippi, and the U.S. have no vision. Nor does the rest of the world. And that doesn't bode well for any of us.

Anonymous said...

That's a big 10-4 and amen to @2:00!
The people that think that 1-lake will help flood control are the same people that think dredging the reservoir will help.

Anonymous said...

Again, here's the corollary to One Lake:

If 450 cars (flood waters) are headed south on the interstate between Canton and Jackson, with hundreds more behind them between Durant and Gluckstadt, the best way to address the problem is to have thirty of them pull off at the Madison exit ramp (One Lake).

Congestion (flooding) problem solved, right?

Anonymous said...

only if One Lake is dry at the time.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing we are going to wait another 40 years to tackle the flooding issue.

It will take a leader to fix this problem, and there is no leader in sight.

Anonymous said...

OK here is the plan and it is less than a page.Require any homes restored with federal dollars to have an elevation over the Easter Flood level.Yes you can jack a brick house up. But the best plan I will call The Common Sense Plan is to quit allowing construction in the Jackson Flood Plain and destroying wetlands. The other plan is We Screwed Up and Let Developers Build in the Flood Plain and Destroy Wetlands—under this plan homeowners would be bought out and these improvements removed and the land would go back to its natural habitat and serve as a flood overflow area not flood control (which is an oxymoron—Mother Nature cant be controlled) So 10:47 the flooding issue has been tackled.Now the future leaders can move on to solve the real big issues.Funding for these studies can be made by starting a Go Fund account for Turtle Lives Matter—(credit to a previous poster)

Anonymous said...

It's rather annoying that even minor measures that wouldn't take years or bust budgets weren't considered.

Soon after '79, it was obvious that the creeks and lakes that overflowed quickly had not been properly maintained. Even the limited, one time cleaning out of creeks helped water not rise into backyards during heavy rains as it had been doing.

The amount of debris, some natural but worse the man-made garbage was again blocking culverts ( most of which were too small when the area was developed...weak building codes) and reducing the flow of water.

On Lakeland , notice the culverts and grades. Where they were properly done, there were no problems.

I'm all for an objective assessment of plans to reduce flooding, but before taking on projects that will take years to complete, it would be wise to properly repair and maintain what exists. And, wiser still, to be stringent in approval of any plans to alter areas adjacent to areas prone to flooding.

And, when we start looking at projects, it might be smart to look at the places which have managed water well like the Netherlands. A few strategically places canals and new building codes might be cheaper and less expensive than One Lake.



Anonymous said...

As best I can determine, Mr. Crawford is not an engineer and has never taken a hydrology or similar course. One might be better served to listen to someone qualified.

Anonymous said...

How could anyone dispute your conclusion re buying out owners of flooded homes and not allowing any future building on that low ground @ 2:00pm? That is if your data is complete and correct.

And of course the question of who allowed that flood prone area to be developed in the first place. Flood maps seem to consider political connection$ as well as topography.

Anonymous said...

9:39 is correct. Only if 'One Lake', or a similar boondoggle, is DRY at the time would it be of any advantage during a flood or release from the Spillway. Otherwise any release would simply pass it by. Can we stop this insane recommendation?

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