By Irv Schiffman, Board of Directors Chair, CSUC, Political Science (Retired)
Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States and causes more property damage and fatalities than any other natural catastrophe. The 2017 floods that wrecked parts of Florida, Texas and Southern California add substance to this sorry fact. And things are likely to get worse.
An article by a group of climatologists published April 23, 2018 in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change describes an even higher risk of flooding than previously predicted – particularly in Sacramento, considered the second-most-flood-prone city in the US after New Orleans.
As California’s wet season becomes shorter and sharper, the authors warn of the possibility of a reprise of the 1862 megaflood that put central and southern California underwater for six months. “In some circles the increasing risk of flood could have been overlooked to date,” wrote UCLA climatologist Daniel Swain, a co-author of the article.
Danger of intense and increased flooding has resulted in greater attention being given to the importance of restoring and maintaining the natural functions of floodplains. Beyond flood damage reduction, there has also been an increased awareness of the ecological, economic and cultural benefits that healthy floodplains can offer.
A timely new book authored by University of California, Davis faculty, Floodplains: Process and Management for Ecosystem Services, synthesizes decades of research, describing how “reconciliation ecology,” the science of integrating green infrastructure into floodplain management, is reshaping rivers and floodplains around the world.
Floodplains showcases River Partners’ Dos Rios project (featured on the cover of this Journal issue) as “an illustrative example of reconciliation ecology at work.”
River Partners purchased the 1600-acre Dos Rios (“two rivers”) Ranch, located where the Tuolumne River joins the San Joaquin, in 2012 and began restoration work almost immediately.
I am proud that River Partners is providing a leading model for communities far and wide of what multiple-benefit floodplain restoration projects can accomplish.