bob carey

Act Locally, Share Globally

Written by Bob Carey, Strategic Partnerships Director
Photographs by Flickr Creative Commons

Just a few short hours north of Seattle and set in the vast beauty of British Columbia, the Conservancy's Floodplains by Design program was the featured topic at a Canadian Water Resource Association workshop in Surrey. More than 30 WATER resource management leaders overwhelmingly responded positively when, at the close, their president asked if they were inspired by this work happening just south of the border.  Their response was just as positive when asked if they’d like to see such a program in British Colombia and on the Fraser River. 

The gathering of representatives from BC’s major cities, the BC government, the Fraser River Basin Council and environmental and academic groups represent those on the forefront of managing the Fraser River – the largest river in both BC and the Salish Sea, and the watershed with the highest flood risks in Canada.  The strong affirmation that the “Floodplains by Design” approach makes sense and is applicable across the border made me proud to be part of a team leading the charge in making the region’s rivers more resilient for people and nature.

Restoring nature to address societies most pressing challenges is a prominent theme in the Conservancy's global conservation agenda.  Our Floodplains by Design work in Washington is one of the best success stories of accomplishing this at a meaningful scale.  Having secured $80M in new funding and helped catalyze 30 projects across the state, in which the restoration of nature and reduction of community risks are being pursued hand-in-hand, it’s clear that the approach can deliver tangible benefits to people and nature. That is why the invitations to share our story are numerous.

In addition to myriad audiences in Washington, over the last couple years our WATER team members have shared the Floodplains by Design story with a variety of national and international audiences, including: China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network (China), Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Vancouver, BC), American Planning Association (Phoenix), Association of State Floodplain Managers (Atlanta, Seattle), National Academy of Sciences (Washington DC), North American Water Learning Exchange (Pensacola, Phoenix) and the NW Floodplain Management Association (Post Falls, ID).

There are many great things about working for The Nature Conservancy, among them – the ability to innovate, the ability to scale up our work, and the ability to export beyond our borders. 

It’s a recipe for making real change in the world.

Integrating Climate Into Floodplain Planning

Written by Robin Stanton, Media Relations Manager
Photographs by Chris Hilton, Grant Fundraising Director

Floodplain leaders from around the Puget Sound region gathered today for a workshop on advancing floodplain restoration, including a new focus on integrating climate change data.

“There’s a big gap between what we know and what we’re doing about it,” says Julie Morse, the Conservancy’s regional ecologist. 

It’s not unique to Puget Sound, we find it all over the country.

At today’s workshop, floodplain leaders will begin to develop strategies for including climate impacts into the work they’re already doing.

The Conservancy has been working with the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group to take its recent Puget Sound Climate Synthesis Report and turn it into information that is really useful to city, county and state leaders grappling with these issues on the ground. Today’s workshop is a chance for floodplain leaders to work hands on with this information.


The Proof is in Our Floodplains


The multiple benefits of the Calistoga Project 

Written by Bob Carey, Strategic Partnerships Director, Skagit River Program
Photographs by Parametrix

The benefit of restoring our floodplains is becoming more and more evident each day.

Much attention has been brought to the flood control benefits of the Calistoga Reach project.  The project, which set levees back giving the Puyallup River more room to flow naturally, enabled the city of Orting to avoid a major flood last November and gave reason for the National Weather Service to more than double the flood warning levels for that area. It was a great win for the people of that community.

Now we’re also seeing proof of the very real environmental benefits also beginning to come to fruition.

The city of Orting’s top building official, Ken Wolfe, witnessed it firsthand seeing salmon returning as a result of the stream and floodplain reconnection work done in Orting. Giving rivers more room not only provides space for floodwaters to spread out and slow down, it provides space for side channels, wetlands and forests to form – and for salmon and other species to thrive.

Natural systems really are some of the most effective for clean water, preventing floods and protecting habitat. The more we can use natural systems, we can save money in the long-term, provide more clean water, fish and public safety.

Check out the Orting mayor’s opinion column on how it saved the city

Learn more about our floodplains work and Floodplains by Design



Our Bob Carey attends the inaugural China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network Conference

Written & Photographed by Bob Carey, Director of Strategic Partnerships

The China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network hosted its first workshop earlier in June in Chang Le, Fujian Province China. The workshop focused on the wetland ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide in the coastal provinces of China – a region which supports 50% of the national population and 60% of its economic activity. Workshops like these are critical as these areas of the coastal wetlands have decreased by 22% in the last decade. The workshop’s purpose was to launch a new learning network of scientists and conservation practitioners to inform wetland conservation efforts across China’s extensive coast.

As a Strategic Partnerships Director and through the Conservancy’s work in Puget Sound with Floodplains by Design and other coastal conservation projects, I was invited by The Paulson Institute to speak and contribute to the first workshop of the China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network. One of four invited international experts, I shared my expertise in restoring coastal habitats and using wetlands as natural infrastructure to lessen storm and flood risks to local communities here in Puget Sound.  And I drew from the experience the Conservancy has gained working in other coastal areas of the US, including the Mississippi River delta and Chesapeake Bay.  Given the thousands of acres of tidal marshes along the Chinese coast that have been impacted by invasive Spartina, I was also able to share the successful experiences the Conservancy has had in working with conservationists, agencies and shellfish growers to battle Spartina in Willapa Bay and Puget Sound.

The eastern China coast and Puget Sound have more in common than you might think. Both areas of part of critical flyways that support hundreds of thousands of migratory birds annually. And birds on both coasts have experienced significant declines. Chang Le, like Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and other cities in Puget Sound, is located along the coast and near the mouth of a river – in this case the Min Jiang. As in Puget Sound, coastal China is the hub of its population and its economy – people tend to cluster along waterbodies and waterways, putting pressure on coastal wetlands and ecosystems. As a result, wetlands in China (and in Puget Sound) have been lost or degraded due to diking, draining, filling, water pollution, and invasive species. The environmental similarities between Puget Sound and the Chinese coast provide a valuable opportunity to share lessons learned.

Habitat loss, water quality degradation and invasive species are all prime examples of how environmental issues defy borders – productive international cooperation is crucial as we work together to protect nature. It also provided a great opportunity to visit our global program and see the Conservancy’s China office! This was an amazing experience and I was honored to share expertise at the China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network’s workshop, and continue to develop these important international partnerships. 

Learn more about Floodplains by Design.

Partnership celebrates completion of major Snoqualmie River habitat restoration project


Work in King County Fall City Natural Area reconnects forested floodplain to river, maintains flood protection for nearby homes and roads

Written by Robin Stanton, Media Relations Manager
Photographed by (1-5) Robin Stanton; and (6-7) King County

Opportunities don’t come along very often to reconnect a river to dozens of acres of floodplain and dramatically restore fish and wildlife habitat, while maintaining flood protection for nearby homes and roads.

King County’s Upper Carlson Floodplain Restoration project along the Snoqualmie River near Fall City is just such an opportunity – and a broad coalition of local, state, tribal and federal governments and organizations came together this week to celebrate completion of this complex, multi-year effort.

The work was done on King County’s Fall City Natural Area – a 50-acre forested floodplain that historically contained the Snoqualmie River’s main stem. The project included removing roughly 1,600 linear feet of aging levee that constrained the river to an unnaturally narrow channel.

With the old levee gone, wintertime flooding brought fresh flows across much of the newly reconnected floodplain, and widened the river channel by approximately 40 feet. As these natural processes are restored, gravel bars and log jams will form, providing additional salmon habitat.

Some funding for this project came from Legislature in 2013 through the Floodplains By Design program sponsored by The Nature Conservancy.

To maintain protection for nearby homes, roads and fertile farmland, project managers designed and installed log structures and a new 850-foot-long rock structure at the lower end of the site to provide additional protection where the river is most likely to migrate.

King County acquired the Fall City Natural Area with funding from the Conservation Futures Levy and Salmon Recovery Funding Board, for preserving and restoring critical salmon habitat.

The site restoration work included invasive vegetation removal, and planting acres of native trees, to improve habitat for the birds, mammals, reptiles and other wildlife.

The $3.5 million project was funded by grants from:

  • Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration via Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and Puget Sound Partnership; 
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via The Nature Conservancy; 
  • Coordinated Investment for Puget Sound Floodplains Initiative sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and administered by the Washington Department of Ecology; 
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via the Snoqualmie Tribe; 
  • King County Flood Control District via Cooperative Watershed Management Grant; and 
  • King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

For more information, visit the project website, or contact Mary Maier at 206-477-4762 or