Posts Tagged ‘flood’

BY JARED BREY

After two rare storms inundate Ellicott City, Maryland, the town tries to sort through what can be saved.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, in Howard County, Maryland, drains three-and-a-half square miles of mostly developed land in and around Ellicott City, a historic mill town founded in 1772 on the banks of the Patapsco River. The terrain surrounding the town is steep. On the south side of lower Main Street, a series of mill buildings is packed alongside and astride the Tiber Branch, one of the watershed’s three main tributaries to the Patapsco. On the north side, old stone buildings are backed up to a hill made of granite bedrock. Rainwater flows downhill, east toward the river, and in Ellicott City, there’s nothing farther downhill than lower Main Street, the historic center of the town.

When I visited at the beginning of February, the sun was out and it was warm enough to leave my jacket in the car. Walking downhill into lower Main, where the street is narrower, the air temperature dropped and the shadows darkened. On my right, behind a row of boarded-up storefronts, I could hear the Tiber Branch rushing along parallel to Main Street. It smelled like a basement.

On the night of July 30, 2016, a storm rolled in and sat directly on top of Ellicott City, dropping 6.5 inches of rain in the watershed in just three hours. Water jumped the banks of the Hudson Branch uphill and flowed down Main Street, (more…)

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Most of the time, Ellicott City, Maryland is a historic mill town with picturesque stone shops nestled next to granite hills and a boisterous, yet still peaceful, river. But more and more, it’s becoming a crucible for the cost of climate change-induced downpours and development that’s ill-placed, if intensely historic. (The town was founded in 1772.) Twice since 2016, Ellicott City has seen branches of the Patapsco River jump their banks after torrential rains, devastating its downtown with two “1,000-year floods,” a description rapidly losing its meaning in an era of increased extreme weather.

This PBS NewsHour segment from the most recent flood looked in on how one Ellicott City business fared: an antique shop where the owner doggedly pushed furniture away from the front door, where a torrent of water outside whisked cars down the street. That is, until a sudden eruption of water knocked down walls, sending display cases toppling like dominoes.

The town’s newest flood-proofing plan, developed with help from Baltimore’s Mahan Rykiel, calls for 10 buildings to be demolished downtown to widen the river canal at a cost of $50 million, as well as a new terraced river park. As explored in Jared Brey’s “Twice Bitten” (to be posted here later this month), it’s a plan that preserves Ellicott City’s future by destroying a bit of its past.

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

In North Carolina, history, industry, and climate change work in tandem to create landscapes of toxic waste.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In Houston, it was the petrochemical plants. In North Carolina, it was the hog farms. In both places, churning floodwaters caused by recent storms were turned into a toxic stew that endangered local water resources and public health. In September 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, where seven million gallons of hog waste overtopped the region’s ubiquitous open-air lagoons and quickly made its way into neighbors’ yards and nearby streams.

As by-products go, the fecal sludge of an industrial-scale hog farm is far from benign. The waste can carry viruses, parasites, nitrates, and bacteria such as salmonella. Even in the best circumstances, the odors from these open-air lagoons, which number some 3,300 across the state but are concentrated in the heavily African American counties of eastern North Carolina, are noxious enough that in August 2018 a jury awarded six families $473.5 million for having to live near a hog farm in Pender County. Combined with a severe storm, however, these lagoons become all the more dangerous, threatening the water supply of entire communities and far-flung ecosystems.

Hurricane Florence was just the most recent example of how severe weather events, strengthened by a warming climate, can interact with industrialized landscapes to create new threats to public health and safety. If landscape architects are to grapple with the environmental and human health impacts of climate change, they will have to educate themselves about agricultural waste. (more…)

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FOREGROUND

What Makes Us Us (Interview)
Julian Raxworthy talks about the proletarian roots of his new book, Overgrown.

Hog-Tied (Waste)
A few landscape architects have begun to focus on the huge ecological hazards
of animal waste from agriculture operations.

Linked In (Habitat)
A Seattle neighborhood is the starting point of the artist Sarah Bergmann’s
realization of a living network called Pollinator Pathways.

FEATURES

MLA ROI
Although the landscape architecture profession is poised to grow, master’s degree programs are struggling to gain enrollments. One major reason is the cost and eventual payoff of pursuing a degree.

Refuge Found
Outside Denver, Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, a Design Workshop project that received the 2018 ASLA Landmark Award, continues to rebuild a high-prairie ecosystem scorched by weapons and chemical production.

Twice Bitten
Two flash floods in three years gutted the historic heart of Ellicott City, Maryland. Mahan Rykiel Associates is working to help the town figure out how to meet a future of extreme weather.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for May can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be posting May articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Refuge Found,” D. A. Horchner/Design Workshop; “Twice Bitten,” Josh Ganzermiller Photography; “Hog-Tied,” Waterkeeper Alliance; “Linked In,” © David E. Perry; “What Makes Us Us,” Julian Raxworthy. 

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

Beavers become partners in restoration.

FROM THE JANUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As public support for trapping has waned, beavers are making a comeback in urban waterways around the country. In Seattle, they are now said to be found in every suitable stream and water body, and some project designers now see them as partners in wetland restoration rather than nuisances. They say the benefits beavers bring to an ecosystem outweigh the challenges, and point out that working with them is far less expensive—and more humane—than trapping.

“Beavers construct wetlands that hold back and store water, allowing for groundwater recharge and pollution sequestration, and increasing biodiversity,” says Ben Dittbrenner, the aquatic ecologist and executive director of Beavers Northwest. “We do the same thing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they do it for free.” This past October, (more…)

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BY HANIYA RAE

Technology helps shape what hardscapes can be.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Courtney Goode was working on a project in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. Buffalo Bayou, one of the slow-moving rivers that Houston relies upon to hold stormwater, flooded, and the waters would end up spilling out over the city’s aging infrastructure and impermeable surfaces, exacerbating the problem.

“My heart was in my throat,” Goode says. “We had been working on these super-detailed axonometric drawings of all angles of the city—we knew the city like the back of our eyelids. It was a total shock to see the bayous obliterated and murky, debris-filled water covering the walkways, roads, and even ground floors of the buildings near the bayou. The flood just engulfed everything we had been designing.”

For Goode, a landscape designer in Sasaki’s Urban Studio and a Fabrication Studio coordinator, the disaster afforded her a very real account of how the city managed stormwater and led her to think more about how low-impact development can divert stormwater from streets during flooding. She describes a scenario in which a city like Houston could divert some of the excess water by excavating 40-foot-deep gravel dry wells (the size of a typical four-story parking garage) topped off with permeable pavers that could hold excess rainwater until it’s able to seep back into the ground. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s happening again.” That was a repeated phrase May 27 on Twitter as a deluge of water came downhill on Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, carrying cars and garbage and ruining businesses that had rebuilt after a similar flood in 2016. This time, the historic town received more than seven inches of rain within a few hours; a Maryland National Guardsman was killed as he tried to help a woman rescue her cat.

Ellicott City has known flooding since its founding, though it now comes from above the town rather than creeping up from the Patapsco River below. Our editorial in October 2016 explains the problem, which officials still, apparently, have not been able to fix.

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Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, has reopened, its historic storefronts repaired for the moment but its bigger problems unsolved. On July 30, almost six inches of rain fell in two hours right atop the 244-year-old former mill town—now a shopping and dining destination—which is built into a tight granite valley atop a network of streams that flow into the Patapsco River. The flood was a surprise. The water came not from the river but from upland, where suburban development in recent decades has hardened the ground. Main Street turned into a torrent within minutes. Dozens of people who had gone out to shop or eat had to be rescued, and two people died. The water shoved around a couple hundred cars and gouged out the streetscape, baring the infrastructure beneath about 100 ruined businesses. (more…)

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