Don’t allow filling in of floodplain

To the Editor:

I am a local biologist and an avid outdoorsman and spend a great deal of my time for both business and pleasure in the stream. 

Historically, we have abused our floodplains all over the world. In many cities, including Franklin, downtowns are built on the floodplain or filled floodplain. Over time, as human population has grown, we have learned what’s wrong with this way of development. We’re probably not going to move Pittsburgh, but we can profit from earlier mistakes. This is a large part of what motivated Macon County, and many other local governments, to adopt a floodplain ordinance. 

Our floodplain ordinance leaves plenty of room for debate as to how it should be applied. This is good — there is every reason to be able to discuss how individual floodplain parcels can be used, what can or should be planted or built, and how the risks associated with floodplain development should be assessed and distributed. 

Floodplain filling is a distinct case. When you propose to fill a floodplain area, this is no longer a discussion about use, it is a question of circumventing the ordinance by eliminating an inconveniently located portion of floodplain. It is a direct attack on the logic that led to creating a floodplain ordinance. It is, in essence, “fixing the map.” 

When working in the stream, I cannot tell you how many landowners approach me just to tell me about what their upstream neighbor has done to the creek and how it impacts their land. The principle, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” also applies to water. When you fill a portion of the floodplain, you are removing that area from the floodplain — at least until a large flood comes along and decides to reclaim it. 

Call me cynical, but if we allow filling of the floodplain, I foresee in the near future the turning of neighbor against neighbor. The first person downstream that chooses not to, or cannot afford to fill their portion, will be negatively impacted. If you are going to remove the prohibition on floodplain filling, better strike the whole ordinance and abandon the pretense of trying to protect the floodplain, the downstream residents and infrastructure, the river and the common good.

Jason Meador

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