By Heather Cole, Puget Sound Community Relations Manager

 “We just had a 300-year flood event — no one noticed, no Federal assistance needed. Thanks expressed to Floodplains by Design” -future newspaper headline in 2030

This was one of the top “big ideas” that came out of the FbD workshop that inspired 150-plus floodplain practitioners and leaders to vote with the loudest cheer. (Thanks to Tim Abbe for this inspiring vision!)

The workshop on Dec. 6 at the Seattle Mountaineers brought together, state, federal, local, tribal and private practitioners and leaders all working on floodplain issues across the state.

The morning panel discussion brought together on-the-ground examples on how we integrate multiple benefits at different scales. Jenny Baker, our senior restoration manager, shared the results from Fisher Slough — seven years of monitoring data from a multi-benefit project — and commented one of her main takeaways was the “tremendous power of group learning.”

Ryan Mello, Pierce Conservation District executive director, described a newly developed monitoring framework to measure floodplain health for the Puyallup, White and Carbon rivers. Ryan noted, “The monitoring framework is designed to sustain three things: build trust, sustain collaboration and funding.” He reiterated the message that, “This integrated framework is the bridge between social science and hard science and tells the arc of the story to communicate to funders and decision makers.”

Tom Ring, from the Yakama Nation Natural Resource Department, loosened up the crowd with his jokes, shared the geologic history of the Yakima Basin and the successful elements of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. He left the group with these parting words, “The moral of the story: Dogs, cats and other mortal enemies, we can’t do it without each other”

The afternoon session was the time for the participants to put on their creative hats, to create a FbD vision for the next five years and to have in-depth group discussions on topics that ranged from climate change to storytelling to creating local capacity.

The day concluded with a raffle prize for the big-idea contest. We had three winners, Evan Bauder, Mason Conservation District, Linda Neunzig, Snohomish County and Cynthia Krass, Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance, all winning framed photos. (Interestingly, they all represent agriculture and private landowner interests.)

What is the next step you ask? Put on our creative hats, pursue our passions, learn from each other and continue this journey to create healthy floodplains, for people and nature. And in 15 years, when a 300-year flood event comes through, no one should notice.

Floodplains by Design is a public-private partnership led by:

For more information, contact: INFO@FLOODPLAINSBYDESIGN.ORG
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY, 74 WALL STREET, SEATTLE, WA 98121