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January 9, 2006

Faculty News


Marsha Smith has an article published in the most recent issue of The ASIANetwork Exchange, (V. 13, no. 2, Winter 2005), entitled "Constructing Identities: Tensions in Defining NaxiMosuo and Bai/Yi Ethnicities." This article was originally part of an solicited panel presentation given at the 2005 joint ASIANetwork/Asian Studies Development Program (ASDP) conference in Whittier, CA. The article examines political and cultural relationships between four Yunnan Chinese minority groups to examine areas of tension and transformation emerging between governmental vs. self-definitions of ethnic identity, particularly fueled by the rapid growth of both national and international tourism in this remote area of China.

Reuben Heine reports that the National Science Foundation has approved funding a collaborative Augustana College-Southern Illinois University research project focusing on Lower Mississippi River flooding and levee protection. In this country, and around the world, images from Lousiana and the Gulf states brought the issues of levee protection and flood hazard back into our collective conscious. Even before Katrina, it was well-known (to those in floodplain management) that in spite of spending upwards of $1.1 billion annually on flood-control infrastructure, economic damages from floods in the U.S. had risen dramatically during the 20th century. A growing body of evidence suggests that a significant portion of this increase results from physical magnification of flooding driven by levee expansion and other river engineering activities.


Our project will test the hypothesis that measured increases in flood levels on the Lower Mississippi River are linked to progressive increases in levee heights and extent along the river. In order to test this hypothesis, we will develop a geodatabase of levee emplacement and growth during the past 100-125 years along the Lower Mississippi River , empirically test the correlation between observed levee expansion and increases in flood levels, and compare the results of this empirical model with 1-D and 2-D hydraulic modeling results.



It is our intent that this project will provide a quantitative, empirical, and system-wide analysis of the impacts of levee construction upon flood response, focusing upon the Lower Mississippi River . The goal here is to provide a practical tool for evaluating flood-control and floodplain projects. Specifically, this research should provide an empirical tool for quantifying the impact of each new increment of levee acreage or levee height on flood-stage response. At present, without such a system-scale, empirical tool, large increases in levee-protected acreage and levee heights are occurring, resulting in billions of dollars of infrastructure recently constructed or planned on U.S. floodplains.


Reuben published a paper--"Empirical Testing of Levee Freeboard and Overtopping Using Stage-Based Flood-Frequency Analysis" in the Journal of Floodplain Management, Floodplain Management Association (Nov, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 1).

The paper presents exploratory research into a new methodology for inexpensive and rapid assessment of levee safety on rivers where flood occurrence is changing over time. The technique produces new, low-cost flood-hazard maps by combining an alternative flood-stage analysis technique (stage-based flood-frequency analysis) and GIS-based inundation modeling.