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Corps isn't going to 'protect' us by keeping secrets

Posted: November 20, 2011 - 12:00am  |  Updated: November 20, 2011 - 10:04am

Do any of our local anglers have a depth finder that can ping deep enough to fathom the wisdom of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

The folks who jealously love Clarks Hill Lake to death by ensuring it has no water in it now want to keep everyone downstream protected in case Thurmond Dam breaks.

They just don’t want you to know if you’re in danger if that happens.

For years, the Corps has provided to Columbia County and other communities downstream from the dam an “inundation map,” which shows where floodwaters would flow if the dam were breached – by natural disaster, terrorism or other calamity.

Columbia County Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker and county staffers have done an outstanding job of providing those maps for public review. Citizens can go to the county’s Web site to see if their home would be in danger.

The Corps now has decided that’s a bad idea. It works like this: If a homeowner can see where the flood waters would flow, that means a potential terrorist could see it, too. That terrorist then would know just how many homes the destruction of the dam would cause.

So rather than put that information in the hands of bad guys, the Corps wants to also keep it secret from homeowners.

But if that information is kept secret, doesn’t that also mean individual homeowners won’t know to be prepared for such a disaster? Do the folks at the Corps seriously believe that without access to the information, a potential terrorist would simply walk away from a plot? Do they really think withholding the inundation maps from public review is going to cause a single potential terrorist to foam in outrage, “Curses! Foiled again!”

If so, perhaps those Corps folks need to get jobs with the TSA, searching babies’ diapers and groping grandma. That might not stop any actual terrorists, either, but at least it comes with instant gratification - and unlike those potential flood victims, at least they can see the faces of the people they claim to “protect” in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Give it a rest, guys. You aren’t going to “protect” us by keeping information from us. It’s far better to arm citizens with information so we can protect ourselves. Then the Corps can go back to doing what it does best: Watching the lake levels drop.

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Comments (2)



This piece belongs on the rants and raves page or in an anonymous comment at the bottom of a Yahoo! News story.

A debate about what level of information about our infrastructure should be readily available on the web is a very serious one, and you're completely making light of that in an embarassing way. The information we're talking about doesn't give a homeowner any information that will help us prepare for a dam failure. Also, the information is not "secret," as I recall from previous articles on the subject it is for official use only, which is a big difference. It is preposterous to imply that anyone thinks that keeping the information off the web will stop a determined terrorist, but it will make it more difficult for them, which is the point.

There is a much much broader question here. If there is a "right" to have detailed flood information published in an openly accessible digital format, do we also publish this for nuclear and natural gas facilities or similiar infrastructure that would have catastrophic impacts if destroyed? Do we take our tallest buildings and bridges and publish on the web exactly where they'd land if they were to fall over? I would think the negatives would far outweigh the benefits in that case.


Flood map

I doubt ANYONE seriously studies the map for any reason. It's not a flood plain map. But my pertinent question is does the lake being lower mean it's safer down stream in case of dam failure?