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Focus on the bigger picture


I read the debate on flood protection (NCE 22 November) with interest as I am chairman of the CIWEM Rivers & Coastal Group.

Earlier this year, I led a party to the US to examine the concept of removing houses from an area of floodplain being put into practice.

In the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota (population 52,500), we saw flood defence works carried out following the disastrous flood of 1997 which overtopped the existing 2-3m high defences. Part of the work involved the buy-out and demolition of several hundred homes in the floodplain. Most of the buy-outs were voluntary, but compulsory purchase powers were needed for a few properties.

The new defences were not only constructed over a metre higher than the 1997 flood peak but also set well back from the original line in some areas, so that the once developed areas could revert to floodplain.

I agree with Dr Mervyn Bramley that this may be an extreme action for flood defence in the UK. But I am pleased that we are now looking for solutions on a wider basis than we have done in the past. All involved in flood defence need to recognise how the entire river system functions, and not to look only to local solutions to problems.

Nick Roseveare, chairman, CIWEM Rivers & Coastal Group RoseveareN@halcrow. com

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