Development in Floodplains – bad for people and wildlife

It is a story told throughout the world; the once docile and tame river rising from its banks to spill out over the surrounding area in a torrent of muddy water. As the water picks up speed it begins to carry with it anything in its path, at first bits of wood and small objects but soon it begins to sweep away large rocks, trees and even some homes. Over concrete and through parking lots the water rolls. Salmon twist and turn in the muddy water, bumping into shopping carts in a parking lot, far away from their natural habitat. As it reaches a road the water bumps up and over the pavement but also begins a secret journey, cutting out the soft soil beneath. Before long the earth has been quite literally pulled from beneath the feet of anyone crossing the road; the once solid pavement collapsing into the now empty space below. Check out this video of a river cutting out a road in under four minutes in Freeport, Maine:


National Flood Safety Awareness Week

Turn Around Don't Drown poster - National Weather Service
March 12-16th is National Flood Safety Awareness Week, a week devoted to increasing public awareness of the dangers of flooding. This year’s focus of ‘Turn Around Don’t Drown’ highlights the dangers posed to the lives of people in flood areas. Flooding is an issue throughout the US and around the world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on average floods kill more people than other weather related events such as lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes. Floods can be deceiving. A six inch flow may not look dangerous but it can sweep a person off their feet while a two foot flow can sweep away an automobile, including SUV’s.

Flooding — a Necessary Disaster

When left to their natural state flooding is an essential part of any river system, providing habitat for wildlife such as salmon and other fish, caring nutrient rich silt onto the floodplain and creating natural meanders in the river channel. Rivers today have been encroached upon by human development with buildings, homes and roads spilling in and filling up the floodplain. The once naturally flowing rivers are then channelized and maintained through levees and dykes which provide a barrier between these areas and the river and provides a false sense of security for those living, working, and traveling in these areas. Development in floodplains harms people and wildlife. If we stop development in floodplains and begin to restore these areas to their natural state we remove ourselves from the problem by giving rivers the space they need and helping to protect people and wildlife.

Flooding and Wildlife

The National Wildlife Federation has filed numerous lawsuits against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for using the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP) to subsidize and subsequently promote development in floodplains which negatively impacts Endangered Species such as salmon and orcas in Puget Sound and eight endangered species including Key deer in the Florida Keys among others. Development in floodplains harms wildlife and people. By promoting development in floodplains FEMA is providing not only the means but the need to travel in flood prone areas for work or home. Smart development in regards to floodplains can reduce this danger and can help restore habitat for wildlife.