Floodplain restoration requires dual intervention in biophysical and governance systems

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Jonathon Loos

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Floodplain restoration is increasingly used as a tool to achieve multiple benefits for human communities in addition to restoring ecological functions in stream and riparian ecosystems. To ensure long-term outcomes, restoration of the biophysical environment must be accompanied by a critical evaluation of the regulatory and development processes that have led to degradation of the stream environment in the first place. This presentation reports on the preliminary outcomes of mixed methods research examining the social and governance factors key to the success of river-floodplain restoration in several communities of the Northwest and Northeastern United States. Floodplain restoration is often constrained by availability of open-space and local concerns for flood and erosion hazards, as well as larger regulatory and permitting barriers. While these social and governance factors are challenging to work within, some communities have found creative ways to utilize national policy programs alongside local regulatory practices to advance restoration projects that achieve hazard risk reductions and restore degraded ecosystems. I will present examples from communities with a focus on the use of voluntary property buyouts following flood events as a mechanism for large-scale floodplain restoration. These examples prompt a conceptual discussion of watershed restoration as a process that requires intervention in both biophysical and governance processes to achieve meaningful and long-term outcomes.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program