Climate Change

Flooding Of The Delaware

By Steven J. Grisafi, PhD.

Perhaps you have noticed, upon visiting a newly built shopping mall residing on recently vanished farmland, that space is allocated for rain collection and drainage reservoirs. Our governments understand that when farmland, or virgin forest land, is graded and paved with macadam that rain water, and melting snow, cannot seep into the ground and replenish underground water reservoirs. So to accommodate the construction of new shopping malls, and also of new housing developments, our local laws usually require construction of these rain catching drainage areas. Unfortunately, depletion of our vegetation covered land areas is so rapid, due to our rapidly expanding population, this improvisation is insufficient as shown by the animation displaying recent flooding of the Delaware River along the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A complementary amelioration in support of the drainage ditches would be to delay the entrance of rain waters into large rivers and streams susceptible to flooding, and capable of causing significant loss of human life or property, by building structures along the creeks and small streams that empty their waters into the flooding prone main waterways. While technologically feasible this complementary procedure is politically untenable due to the high costs of improving the water passage of all small streams involved as well as conflicts of property rights of the land owners. Our society always clamors for technological fixes to all of the evils created by our society. Yet, when technology can avail itself to ameliorate our problems we lack the political will to do so.

The high cost of building such water bearing structures could be partially offset by incorporating into such structures electric generators to produce electricity for the communities that bear the cost of building such structures. It is not necessary to build dams upon the small streams since all that would be required is to delay the flow of water into the larger streams and not completely impede its flow. For this purpose a weir is sufficient to raise the water level of the small stream, delay the water flow into the larger stream, and to generate electricity. Such a weir is to be seen at the junction of the Lehigh River into the Delaware River here at Easton, PA. The weir was constructed more than a half century ago for the purpose of raising the water level of the Lehigh River to permit recreation upon the river. No thought was given to the possibility of electric power generation at that time because America had plenty of it from cheap coal burning electric utilities. Now things are different.

Although I suggest to you that there are technological fixes to our problems I would prefer that we not seek to apply technology to solve our problems that we can avoid by a more judicious society. We are addicted to technological fixes to problems we ought never have created in the first place. We can prevent the vanishing of our farmlands and the development of virgin territory through local zoning laws if we reduce the tremendous pressure to expand. This pressure is exerted by our too rapid population growth. Yes, my friends, it always reduces to the problem of too many people.

In an earlier blog post I urged the termination of all immigration into the United States as the least painful first step to controlling our population growth. I know that doing so leaves me vulnerable to accusations of ethnic bigotry because so much of our country is fixated on the illegal immigration problem we have on our border with Mexico. Only the disingenuous would ignore my plea for population control and interpret my urging for the termination of all immigration as ethnic bigotry. The illegal immigration problem is driven by the need of large food producing entities requiring near serf labor to harvest their crops. We all know that necessity is the mother of invention. Eli Whitney would never have invented the cotton gin if southern plantation owners had all the slaves they needed for the task. Denying corporations this flow of cheap labor would compel them to develop the machinery to mechanize those tasks now performed by illegal immigrants. In the twenty-first century such tasks ought to be accomplished by machines not men.

Terminating all immigration into the United States is only the first step. To prevent further development of rural land we need to invigorate our cities. Invigorating our cities is best done at the state government level where legislation can be imposed upon counties to resist the temptation to increase their tax base by allowing the conversion of land outside the cities into new industrial and residential complexes. I am proud to say that I live in an old home. No farmland once existed on the land my home sits. Only Native American tepees were formerly built on my property. I am not suggesting that we all become urban dwellers; far from it. I am suggesting that we need to make our cities the attractions their once were, maintain a rigid distinction between urban and rural areas, and confine both within their now established borders. Hear my plea America and we can save our America the Beautiful.