Progress brings problems!!! Increase the number of outlets or construct an elevated causeway Print E-mail
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Written by By Rudolph Willimas   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00

There has been much discussion about the Coast Guard boating incident that caused the death of one and injury to some residents of Cooked Tree Village.  First of all my sympathies to families that were affected by this incident.  The construction of the earthen causeway has allowed Belizeans to move to and from Crooked tree Village more easily.  Nevertheless the earthen causeway is in effect a dam across the Northern Lagoon.  But Progress Brings Problems!!!

The earthen causeway (dam) became impassable due to flooding consequent of the record rainfall that occurred in the 2013.  All Belizeans can attest to the unusual rains and the National Meteorological Service can confirm, if they so desire, that there was record setting rainfall in 2013.  As is the case, record setting rainfall will result in record setting flooding events, as was the case with the most recent Crooked Tree Lagoon flooding event.  The Hydrology Unit can confirm, if they so desire, that the duration of this most recent Crooked Tree Lagoon flooding  event was also a record setting event.

Briefly, the earthen causeway (dam) across the Northern (Crooked Tree) Lagoon links the Philip Goldson Highway and Crooked Tree Village. Northern Lagoon is part of one of the Belize River’s Storage Complexes that includes the Revenge, Northern, and Southern lagoons, and the Western Lagoon that is connected to Spanish and Governor Creeks. Runoff from the Mopan and Macal Branches of the Belize River flow through Benque Viejo and San Ignacio Towns, pass Roaring Creek Village, thereafter joined by the Labouring Creek Branch before entering into the “Belize River Valley”.  When there is normal flow, runoff makes its way through the “Belize River Valley” and under the Haulover Creek Bridge and “Big Bridge” into the Caribbean Sea.  During extreme rainfall and extreme flood events the flood water makes its way via ephemeral streams and Southern Lagoon into the Lagoon complex.  This flood water would, absent storage in the lagoon complex, flood the lower and coastal portions of the watershed, which includes Belize City.  When flood levels recede on the Belize River the Lagoon Storage Complex then releases water via Black Creek into the Belize River near McKenzie Run.

Extreme events oftentimes require extreme corrective measures.  One measure that was/is tossed around in the discussions and encouraged by the media is to increase the elevation of the earthen causeway(dam).  The utility of a dam is to impound water behind it, so increasing the elevation of the dam will increase the elevation of the water behind the dam.  Such increase will result in the flooding of the lands behind the dam, that is more village land and farmlands will be flooded for longer periods.  A check with the village Elders will tell you that the flooding of the village was not as extensive as it is today.  Resorts and entertainment spots on the shores of the  Northern Lagoon that previously did not flood are now victims of floods during the rainy season.  Raising the elevation of the causeway is not a good idea, it will make an already bad situation worst.

Again the Elders will tell you that when there was no causeway the duration of floods were not as long as they are today, and the younger residents will tell you that the two outlets in the causeway, have allowed the lagoon to return to near pre- causeway (dam) levels when outflow via Black Creek occurs. Although the current time for the lagoon to return to normal level is longer than when there was no causeway (dam).

So if raising the causeway will cause greater and longer duration of flooding, what can be done? After all we really do not want to see another incident.  The short term solution is to increase the number of outlets in the earthen causeway.  Such a measure will allow for the faster release of the flood water when the levels on the Belize River recede and will shorten the duration of flood events.  The longer term solution is to completely remove the earthen causeway (dam) and to construct an elevated causeway.  This will return the lagoon complex to almost pre-causeway conditions of lower and shorter flood events, yet maintaining safer means for travelling to and from the village during flood events.