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Pogue Comments on Town Relocation

For a number of languishing Mississippi towns it is the Great Flood of 1993 and, as important, its aftermath that have drained life away. The floods, which caused $10 billion in damage, were devastating enough. But the effort to reconstruct the towns, paradoxically, has played a role as well. Federal and state governments resettled 20,000 houses away from the river throughout the flood zone, and while it made sense to prevent people from rebuilding on land that was prone to flooding, the decision also exposed a harsh reality: The towns had lost their reason to exist, making attempts to reconstitute them virtually impossible. The chances of economic recovery are slim, said THOMAS F. POGUE, a professor of economics at the University of Iowa. "The government may have been trying to move the towns and have it continue as it was," Mr. Pogue said. "But that's not economically viable. What is being lost is the sense of community and history. That can't be replicated."

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