Facing the floods
Reconnecting these floodplains will require more than planting trees along the riverbanks. Unnaturally high riverbanks, which are often lined with trees, will need to be removed or at least breeched in a manner that allows the river to “fix” itself in time. Floodplain restoration, however, is only part of what needs to be done. As this last round of flooding reminds us, we need to address infrastructure problems as well. Too often, undersized bridges or culverts exacerbate flooding. There are areas that repeatedly flood, and we need to ask the difficult question as to how many times as a society we allow the rebuilding of these structures.
In hard economic times, tackling these problems is not easy; however, the recent devastation we witnessed tells us that we must address them. I believe unifying organizations such as the Delaware River Basin Commission or Common Waters can bring communities together to do just that. Working at a regional scale, these groups can bring resources from various agencies and non-governmental organizations together. If successful, I envision a place where floods happen, but they do not devastate communities.
To learn more about the work of The Nature Conservancy, visit www.nature.org/newyork.
[Mari-Beth DeLucia is The Nature Conservancy’s Delaware River Project Director in New York.]