Water Resources People and Issues
projects. They were using standard optimization techniques for computing,
in a very sophisticated fashion, what the probable flood events might be, what
the damages would be from events of different magnitude, and judging what
would be an optimal solution. When I asked if they had ever considered
looking into a floodplain to see what happened in the floodplain, as distinct
from computing the losses that would be experienced or averted, they said
they weren't interested in that; that wasn't a part of the kind of analysis that
they were pursuing and that they were training people to pursue. That was
typical, I would say, of the economic analysis that was going on. You didn't,
for an irrigation project, go in and look at the quality of life of the farmers.
You looked at what you could tally up on returns from crop production or
sales. In the case "alternatives" approach, there was strong emphasis on
trying to find out what actually happened to the lives of the people involved,
which we still find difficult to do. But this notion was just beginning to gain
Q: In the late 1960s you also became fairly involved with the evolution of the
flood insurance program. Can you explain how you got involved in that and
A: I first became interested in it from the whole array of questions that emerged
from asking why occupance in the floodplains continued as it had between
1936 and 1956. Flood insurance was one of those facets, along with flood
proofing, flood forecasting, land-use regulations, and so on. Flood insurance
had seemed to a number of us to be one of the more promising instruments
that could be used involving some federal support but hopefully turning out
to be a self-supporting effort in which market forces could play the most
effective role in managing location decisions in or off a floodplain. In the late
1930s I had arranged for Alfred Manes, the German scholar, to report on
European experience with flood insurance.
When the first Flood Insurance Act was passed I found myself working very
hard to prevent it from ever going into effect because as the first administrator
had planned to carry it out it would have had just the opposite effect.
Q: When was that passed?
A: It was passed but wasn't put into effect. There was a hiatus. Then the new
legislation was passed and there was a question of how it would be put into