A new study released today by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has cited “serious design flaws” with the floodwall surrounding downtown Richmond, saying that while it is adequate enough to hold back rising river waters, it does nothing to keep hordes of Southside residents from entering the city.
The James River – originally constructed as a moat to keep residents of Chesterfield County from invading or patronizing downtown restaurants and shops – was braced with a floodwall ranging in height from 15 to 25 feet in 1988 as a means to further barricade Richmond from a Southsidian infiltration.
“However, one of the key mistakes in the floodwall is that there are several bridges spanning the James, thus allowing those from the south of the river to easily drive, walk or bike into downtown,” said Frank M. Lewis, lead author of the report, titled Richmond Floodwall: Keeping Those People From Down There Far, Far Away. “The floodwall is almost useless in the sense of keeping those people from entering the city’s core.”
“It’s as if Richmonders don’t mind that Southsiders come to the city,” he added.
Lewis noted that the presence of a “small handful” of Southsiders in Richmond is not a problem, and can be dealt with properly by law enforcement officials. Larger masses of Southsiders create the true worry, he said, with the report finding that 70 percent of “south of the river” citizens enter the city and cause trouble, while the remaining 40 percent cannot do math.
“Southsiders come into the city, many times for big outdoor concerts or street festivals, and will naturally become confused, lost or intoxicated, and the police can handle that,” Lewis said. “The danger here comes in when there a massive influx of Southsiders come into the city – typically corresponding with a public event – and become agitated and destructive.”
A worst-case scenario, Lewis said, would be something like that one sweet scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, whereby 10,000 Uruk-hai use ladders and catapults and stuff to climb over the wall during the battle at Helm’s Deep.
“I love that part in the movie,” Lewis said. “But for real, Southsiders are like that.”
Indeed, Richmond residents say. With nearly four dozen incidents of trampling, suffocation and beheadings during downtown outdoor events during the past year – all attributed to Southsiders – locals say they are concerned with the study’s findings.
“I don’t know why they want to come here anyways, they have their own speedway and like 15 different malls,” said Richmond resident Anne Burwell, noting that expensive tolls were placed along almost all direct entry points into downtown from Southside as a means of keeping “those people” away from the city.
As for resolving the “many inherent problems” with the floodwall, the report offers several approaches, including making the wall higher, rigging it with barbed wire, or “installing nearly 400 motion-sensing flamethrowers with grenade launchers attached because that would look really awesome.”