Friday, June 24, 2011

Natural Disasters Who Should Pay by Colleen DeShazer

Colleen DeShazer
PHS 100 A
Instructor Dr. T.
Warner Pacific College
June 23, 2011

Natural disasters happen every where every day. Some are relatively small in comparison to others. Some of us never hear or read about small local disasters and our attention is generally only drawn to those disasters that make the national or world news. Big or small, national or worldwide natural disasters that gain the most focus are always those in which there is a human element, loss of life and or loss of property. Who pays for these losses? Big or small, natural disasters or disasters created by man, what is the bottom line?

Often coupled with acts of God, we as human beings make decisions about where we live and in the wake of those decisions we often put ourselves in a position that poses a risk to life and property. Should our government pay for these choices? Should we as taxpayers pay to rebuild communities that are hit time and time again with the same type of disaster? Vernonia, Oregon is one such example. Located in Columbia County approximately 40 miles north or Portland, Vernonia, Oregon has faced this dilemma several times in the last decade. In 1996 and again in 2007 the small sleepy town of 2,500 has been devastated by flooding. The two incidents have cost the city of Vernonia over a million dollars in infrastructure losses and loss of property values of over 30 million dollars. FEMA has spent over 10 million dollars in the two flooding incidents combined spending has been focused on housing repairs, rental costs and mitigation money to assist homeowners in elevating their homes. Additionally in the 2007 flood the school system suffered as well. Estimates to replace the Vernonia K-12 school are approximately 50 million dollars. Businesses and residents generally have suffered millions of dollars in losses as well. So how much is too much? The combined total loss for the two flooding incidents in Vernonia are well over $150 million dollars, that is just in losses that have been tabulated through insurance proceeds and government expenditures.

Since flooding is likely to happen again, do we have a responsibility to stop the hemorrhaging of public money to continually rebuild a community? Do we have a responsibility to close the town? Do we as a society have a responsibility to bandage up the emotional ties the residents have to this small town and simply ask the last one out to turn off the lights? Will it take loss of life to force the debate? The residents of Vernonia love their beautiful little town and with its beautiful country setting and location near the Nehalem River it is quite breathtaking. However, the decision to live in Vernonia with the impending possibility that catastrophic flooding will again occur should not be the financial burden of taxpayers of this state or federally. Local legislation as well as congressional action needs to be implemented to force change. Change is never easy but if it saves lives and puts tax dollars to work to build not continually rebuild I believe we have an obligation to society to implement such changes.

Withgott, J., & Bennan, S. (2010) Environment: The Science Behind the Stories (4th ed.) New
York. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN: 13: 978-0-321-71534--0

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