In an unprecedented move, the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the cutting down of all trees within 15 feet of our nation’s levees, regardless if they’re a threat to the levees stability or not.
The corps is concerned that tree roots could undermine barriers meant to protect low-lying communities from catastrophic floods like those caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Since the 2005 Katrina debacle with the breached levees that surrounded New Orleans, the agency has promised to “get tough” and improve flood protection.
The agency wants to eliminate all trees along more than 100,000 miles of levees,according to an Associated Press survey. Thousands of trees have alreadybeen felled, though the Corps has no precise figures of how many will eventually be cut.
Environmentalists, engineers and community members say the trees are an essential part of fragile river and wetland ecosystems.
“If trees are a problem, why aren’t we having problems with them?” said George Sills, who formerly worked for the corps’ Engineer Research and Deelopment Center in Vicksburg, Miss. “There’s never been a documented problem with a tree.”
In 2007, the corps sought to clear oaks, cottonwoods, willows and other vegetation from 1,600 miles of levees in. Stote wildlife officials complained that the policy would destroy habitat, and residents in Sacramento and elsewhere objected that it would turn rivers into little more than barren culverts.
The corps eventually dropped the idea.
Unfortunately, the Corp. has a history of taking expedient actions that aren’t based on sound science. These actions have, over the years, often created more environmental harm than good. With the prospect of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of trees being felled, the possibility of creating more and not less flooding becomes a strong probability. Small wonder communities and conservation groups are fighting this poorly-thought through edict.