A ‘Slough’ of Support for Floodplains by Design

Written by Brittany Gallagher, external affairs manager

Washington’s big rivers are a joy, a resource and a threat to our communities. We now have a forward-thinking state program that reduces the threat of flooding to towns and farms, improves salmon habitat, provides recreational opportunities and many other benefits: Floodplains by Design.

As we await the release of Gov. Jay Inslee’s capital budget, we are grateful to the many organizations, businesses, elected officials, tribes and others who have signed a letter to the governor in support of a $70 million appropriation request for this program. The Floodplains by Design partnership is led by the state Department of Ecology, The Nature Conservancy and the Puget Sound Partnership. It seeks to improve community prosperity and resilience while restoring wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities through integrated, innovative projects.

More than 125 individuals and organizations signed the letter to Inslee, demonstrating a great breadth and depth of support for Floodplains by Design and for its efforts toward making Washington’s communities, farmlands and ecosystems more productive and resilient. 

Giving rivers room to roam

Floodplains are the areas of land adjacent to rivers, formed by nutrient-rich river sediments and subject to flooding after heavy rains and snowmelt. Floodplains may include sloughs or other wetlands and they may be very narrow or miles wide, stretching from a river’s banks to the edges of a valley. Their fertile soils make floodplains attractive for farming and the flat ground invites development of cities and towns. However, development along Washington’s rivers over time has put people and property at risk of flooding and other hazards and has degraded wildlife habitat and water quality. In recent years, heavy rain storms have caused more frequent and severe flooding, increasingly threatening and damaging homes, farms and businesses. 

The Floodplains by Design partnership works with local, state and federal organizations and agencies to mitigate hazards threatening communities and to improve habitat for salmon and other wildlife. We coordinate floodplain-management efforts between different types of owners, including state, federal, tribal and private interests. By integrating the management of floodplains in this way, we improve both community and ecosystem resilience. Investing in Floodplains by Design encourages collaboration by diverse riverside stakeholders who may have different goals but whose interests are all served by more resilient and productive floodplains.     

Community resilience and prosperity through smart investment

Many important priorities across Washington will be competing for funding during the upcoming legislative session. The Floodplains by Design partnership is just one, but our work is vitally important to communities experiencing the uncertainties brought by a changing climate and rapid population growth in our state. 

Capital budget support for Floodplains by Design also allows the partnership to leverage other sources of state, local and federal dollars and make an efficient use of public funds. In fact, over the last two biennia, the Legislature appropriated $80 million for Floodplains by Design, which allowed the partnership to leverage another $100 million in funding for on-the-ground outcomes with multiple benefits across communities.

With $70 million in funding in the 2017-2019 capital budget, the partnership will be able to carry out 20 large and small integrated projects that reduce flood risk, restore salmon habitat, benefit recreation opportunities and support jobs. To add your name to our letter to Gov. Inslee in support of $70 million for Floodplains by Design, please send us an email