Addressing natural disasters from a landscape architecture perspective requires a balanced approach. This statement focused my master’s project at West Virginia University. I chose the dam crisis issue as my topic when I learned that the risk of dam failure has been rapidly increasing due to the aging of dams and the high intensity of… Read more »
Addressing natural disasters from a landscape architecture perspective requires a balanced approach.
This statement focused my master’s project at West Virginia University. I chose the dam crisis issue as my topic when I learned that the risk of dam failure has been rapidly increasing due to the aging of dams and the high intensity of rainfall from climate change. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has reported that approximately 27,000 dams in the United States are classified as potential hazard dams, which is equal to 32% of all dams in the United States. Dam failure could cause massive floods and catastrophic damage to the downstream communities.
The conventional methods for combating these issues have been addressed by politics and engineering in the United States, and the main ideology lies not in terms of coexistence with the river dynamics but in the control of it. The federal flood control program has resulted in building over 8,500 miles of levees and dikes, developing about 90 major shoreline protection projects along 240 miles of the nation’s 2,700 miles of shoreline. In spite of this effort, however, an evaluation of this program after 20 years of experience concluded that flood damages continued to increase.
There are two possible reasons for this increase. One is that river control systems have also brought intensive development along the riverfront and in floodplain areas. This has increased the risk of damage from flooding, because rare catastrophes like 100-year-flood events would destroy structures and cause more catastrophic damage. Another reason is that the river dynamics lost their resiliency and flexibility against natural disturbances and could not mitigate the impact and damage from, for instance, flooding to the shoreline. In addition, the conventional methods for flood management have resulted in not only causing more flood damage, but have also created a disconnect between people and rivers while increasing taxes to keep updating flood control facilities.
So, what alternatives can landscape architects propose to address this issue? The fundamental principle of landscape architecture is to create balance—balance between the needs of people and the needs of the environment, between the manmade and the natural, between development and conservation. From this perspective, landscape architecture methods could provide different and alternative choices for flood management while bringing more benefits to our society and the natural world. Introducing green infrastructure techniques in upstream communities, for example, could reduce the risk of dam failure; building park systems along rivers will reduce the risk of damages from flooding. These balanced methods for flood management could also improve people’s quality of life, enhance natural habitats, and provide cultural and economic benefits.
Please check out the online booklet if you are interested in seeing more proposals.
The goal was to propose landscape planning and designs for flood management using a design simulation of the Bluestone Dam failure. The project is composed of two parts, one located in a community upstream from the Bluestone Dam, and the other in a community downstream. The objective of the first profile was to mitigate the risk of a Bluestone dam failure by storm water management. The objective of the downstream project was to propose planning and design to manage flooding associated with a potential Bluestone Dam failure.