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Floodplain Management: A New Approach for a New Era

by Bob Freitag, Susan Bolton, Frank Westerlund and Julie Clark Island Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 256 pages
AU$62.99 NZ$63.47
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A flooding river is very hard to stop. Many residents of the United States have discovered this the hard way. Right now, over five million Americans hold flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program, which estimates that flooding causes at least six billion dollars in damages every year. Like rivers after a rainstorm, the financial costs are rising along with the toll on residents. And the worst is probably yet to come. Most scientists believe that global climate change will result in increases in flooding.
The authors of this book present a straightforward argument: the time to stop a flooding rivers is before is before it floods. Floodplain Management outlines a new paradigm for flood management, one that emphasizes cost-effective, long-term success by integrating physical, chemical, and biological systems with our societal capabilities. It describes our present flood management practices, which are often based on dam or levee projects that do not incorporate the latest understandings about river processes. And it suggests that a better solution is to work with the natural tendencies of the river: retreat from the floodplain by preventing future development (and sometimes even removing existing structures); accommodate the effects of floodwaters with building practices; and protect assets with nonstructural measures if possible, and with large structural projects only if absolutely necessary.

Chapter 1. Floods Are Not the Problem
-Case Study: Louisa County, Iowa
Chapter 2. A New Vocabulary
-Case Study: Snoqualmie, Washington
Chapter 3. Rivers and Floodplains
-Case Study: Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin
Chapter 4. Natural Processes Must Drive Solutions
-Case Study: New York, New York
Chapter 5. Our Relationship to Rivers
-Case Study: Chicago, Illinois
Chapter 6. Approaches: Structural and Nonstructural
-Case Study: Buck Hollow River, Oregon
Chapter 7. Capabilities and Tools
-Case Study: Davenport, Iowa
Chapter 8. Strategies: Work with, Not against, Rivers
-Case Study: Flooding of I-5 in Washington
Chapter 9. Choosing the Best Strategy
-Case Study: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Chapter 10. What's Next?
-Case Study: Rivergrove
Appendix A: National Flood Insurance Program
-Case Study: Fife, Washington
Appendix B: Floodplain Designer's Tool Kit
Appendix C: Further Reading

"This book is a brilliant, practical approach to solving the problems we cause to people, the environment and the taxpayer as we develop and re-develop in hazardous areas throughout our nation's floodplains."

Robert Freitag is executive director of the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup and director of the Institute for Hazards Mitigation Planning & Research at the University of Washington. He has recently developed a higher education course in floodplain management for FEMA, based on the principles articulated in this book.


Susan Bolton is a professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Forest Resources.


Frank Westerlund is the chair of urban design planning at the University of Washington. Julie Clark is a geologist.