Flood control and metropolitan development in Houston, Miami and Tampa, 1935-1985
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This research focuses on three Southeastern cities – Houston, Miami, and Tampa – that are particularly vulnerable to the repercussions of climate change because of their successful development on coastal plains. The rapid development of these sites from small cities into major regional centers in the decades after World War Two depended on federally-sponsored systems of canals, dams, and reservoirs for controlling floods and supplying fresh water. There was a similar sequence of events that were repeated a little more than a decade apart in each city: A major flood galvanized civic leaders to lobby for federal funding for flood control. Infrastructure designed by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the cities took between one and two decades to complete; rapid growth coincided with construction of levees, dams, and pumping stations, land values increased, and environmental concerns became more prominent in each location. These factors combined ultimately led to critical modifications of the flood control systems. Flood control helped stabilize a trajectory of rapid growth that was already underway in each city. By managing a natural hazard, it helped each city fulfill its destiny as a regional center. But that destiny had the unforeseen effect of making it much harder to complete the flood control projects as originally designed.