Tuesday, July 27, 2010

broken Dam

A Dam broke in Iowa resulting in massive property value losses.

I won't go into too many more details than that, but they're here in the article I read. The thing is, we were very lucky there wasn't massive loss of life to go along with the monetary damages. There are bigger dams, and many of them are beyond useless, they're problematic, environmentally damaging and expensive. The power they produce isn't worth the costs. But, people love water recreation, so we have these massive manmade lakes (yes, I'm including all the fun I had on the lakes in Austin).

It would be slightly ridiculous to drain them all, but if one breaks, why would the government pay to rebuild it? Home owners take the risk when they choose to buy or build on a manmade lake. The idea that the government would subsidize their risk, either by building a new one or footing the cost through FEMA, seems utterly wasteful. Not just wasteful, but when the funds could be used to revitalize areas that AREN'T as affluent as 500k homes on a lake (ie. dense urban living which is better for the environment, helps more people and would help to rebuild currently crumbling cities), the choice seems clear to me.

Homeowners should eat the costs associated with their risks and if the government is going to spend any money, it should be spent on revitalizing dense urban areas. (repeated myself there, but I figure it drove the point home).

For more on dense urban areas, I suggest perusing Yglesias. I don't always (in fact, maybe only 50/50) agree with him, but his writing about urban centers, government subsidization of suburbs and urban planning are generally spot on.

For more about dams and water resources, this is an amazing book: Cadillac Desert


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