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Towards Resilient and Sustainable Floodplains

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 3:00 p.m. Eastern


Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, Association of State Wetland Managers [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]



People like to live and work near water. When that means occupying the floodplains of rivers and streams, they accept flood risk as the price for the benefits that being near water brings. Too often, however, they fail to understand or appreciate what the threat of flooding means. In the past century, the dominant strategy for reducing the risk of riverine flooding is building levees. This strategy, which has resulted in nearly 30,000 miles of levees bordering our rivers and streams, is neither resilient nor sustainable, especially considering climate change. Levee systems choke floodplains, stifle natural processes, and damage the ecosystem. Levees also create a false sense of security and stimulate development behind them putting even more people, property, and infrastructure at risk. This recognition has led the Dutch to adopt “make room for the rivers,” a strategy designed to improve resiliency and sustainability by moving people and property out of harm’s way and returning natural functions to floodplains. The Dutch flood risk reduction strategy is not new; the Chinese implemented it in the Chengdu Plain over 2,000 years ago.

Flood risk management and levee design over the past century has focused on level-of-protection (LOP); for example, there has been widespread use of the one-percent LOP methodology, which is the basis of the National Flood Insurance Program. A major limitation of LOP methodology, however, is that risk is not quantified because consequences are not considered. When risk is not quantified, we cannot measure cost-effectiveness of options to reduce risk, and we too often make decisions regarding flood risk reduction based on judgment and stakeholder preferences, not on considerations of resilience and sustainability, and not on efficient use of resources. When we quantify flood risk using probability and consequences, we can also quantify risk reduction afforded by structural options (e.g., levees) as well as non-structural means, which enables consideration of solutions that are more resilient and sustainable.

LOP methodology ignores residual risk; as risk cannot be eliminated, tolerable risk guidelines (TRG) can be effective in quantifying the residual risk that society may be willing to accept to receive certain benefits, for example living near water. An improved understanding of risk supports policy formulation, informs risk management decisions, enables evaluation of trade-offs, promotes transparent risk communications, and opens the door for resilient and sustainable flood risk reduction. TRG is also useful in allocating scarce resources, achieving equity, and promoting efficiency. History as shown that use of LOP tends to favor levees over non-structural risk reduction measures, and too often evaluation of non-structural measures is performed to “check the box” rather than to search for more efficient means. Using TRG, we can measure the cost effectiveness of non-structural mitigation and application of strategies to take advantage of natural floodplain functions. TRG enables us to monetize risk reduction benefits for the triple bottom line – social, environmental, and financial – leading to more resilient and sustainable flood risk reduction systems.


Larry Roth is vice president and principal engineer in the Arcadis water management group specializing in civil and geotechnical engineering for water resources projects. For the past seven years he has served as an independent advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, now called California WaterFix. Mr. Roth recently served as project manager for the Delta Levees Investment Strategy, also for the Council. This project is aimed at developing a comprehensive investment strategy for the 1,100 miles of levees in the California Delta based on application of tolerable risk guidelines. He is currently serving as senior geotechnical engineer for the remediation of 13 miles of levees near the Texas-New Mexico border and in the repair of a distressed levee near Brownsville, Texas, both for the US International Boundary and Water Commission. Mr. Roth is a licensed civil and geotechnical engineer in California, and is certified as an Envision Sustainability Professional.  

Part 1: Introduction: Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, Association of State Wetland Managers
Presenter: Larry Roth, Arcadis 
    Part 2: Presenter: Larry Roth, Arcadis 
Part 3: Questions/Answers     Part 4: Questions/Answers


Minnesota’s Overall and Watershed Approach to Flood Risk Reduction & Protection of Lakes & Streams

Thursday, November 30, 2017 3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Eastern


Association of State Floodplain Managers


Ceil Strauss, State Floodplain Manager, Minnesota Department of Natural Resource [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]


Minnesota has had a multi-faceted approach to reducing the risk of flood damage. Preservation of open spaces, higher regulatory standards, active watershed districts and a partnership of state and local funding for flood risk reduction projects mitigation projects has helped Minnesotans to reduce and avoid flood damages. Minnesota is also investing heavily in clean water, with funds generated by a constitutional amendment that dedicates sales tax to the effort. Minnesota's Watershed Approach framework has evolved from this opportunity to efficiently address waterbody restoration (TMDLs) and protection. Statewide efforts, like the governor's buffer law and water summit, and “One Watershed One Plan” pilots, also play a key role in achieving clean water goals. Still, widespread changes in the status quo of land and water management are needed for Minnesota to achieve success.


Ceil Strauss, CFM, is the Minnesota State Floodplain Manager. Ceil has been in the Floodplain Program at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) since 2002, and worked with the MnDNR an additional 14 years, mainly as an Area (Field) Hydrologist in the western Twin Cities area. She is the immediate past Chair of the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM). Ceil has a BA in Biology from Lawrence University (Wisconsin) and an MS in Water Resources Management from the University of Michigan.


Planners, Engineers, Floodplain Managers and other professionals who wish to promote natural and nature-based solutions to flooding and erosion.

Attendees who participate in the entire webinar will be eligible to receive certificates of attendance and 1 CEC for CFMs. Group participation in the webinar is not CEC-eligible.



The Iowa Watershed Approach: A New Paradigm for Flood Resilience

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 3:00 p.m. Eastern

Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, Association of State Wetland Managers [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]


From 2011-2013, Iowa suffered eight Presidential Disaster Declarations, encompassing 73 counties and more than 70% of the state. Devastating as these events were, 2011-2013 do not represent Iowa’s worst flood years. Long-term data show that heavy precipitation and flooding events are increasing in frequency across the Midwest. Under these circumstances, a new paradigm for flood resilience is needed—one that decreases flood risk, improves water quality, and increases community flood resilience.

The Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) is a watershed –scale program based on a holistic approach recognizing that 1) heavy precipitation and flooding events are increasing in frequency; 2) upstream activities impact downstream communities; 3) upstream and downstream communities need to voluntarily work together; 4) when possible, flooding should be addressed at its source, using science-based, reasonable, cost-effective practices; 5) improving community resilience to floods requires risk mitigation and community directed initiatives and planning; and 6) program strategies must also respect, protect, and sustain Iowa’s valuable agricultural economy, which provides food, fuel, and fiber for the world and sustains family incomes for many Iowans.

The IWA panelists discussed the program objectives, their specific role in the process, and the progress made in the first year of implementation.


Allen Bonini joined the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2005 as the Supervisor of the Watershed Improvement Section. The Section has lead responsibilities for the Department’s watershed improvement efforts, including the TMDL Program, the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Pollution Program, supporting Watershed Management Authorities, the development of an in-lieu fee stream mitigation program and, most recently, helping carry out the Iowa Watershed Approach project.

Allen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology from the University of Illinois and has spent the past 40 years working in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois as an environmental professional in a variety of technical and managerial positions, mostly in the areas of water quality and solid waste management.

Dr. Craig Just
is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and an assistant research engineer at IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering. Dr. Just’s current research portfolio includes: 1) studies of freshwater mussels and their impacts on microbial ecology as it relates to the mitigation of nitrogen contamination, 2) bioremediation, phytoremediation, photodegradation, and physical-chemical transformations of insensitive munitions explosives, 3) flood resilience in watershed communities, 4) microbial community function, affordability and robustness of alternative, small community wastewater treatment systems, and 5) water resources, food security, and energy system design and implementation in resource-constrained communities. Read more here.

Melissa Miller is the Associate Director at the Iowa Water Center (IWC), a federal-state partnership administered by the U.S. Geological Survey and Iowa State University. As one of 54 Water Resources Research Institutes in the country, IWC conducts and coordinates research, outreach, and education on water issues of local and regional importance. Melissa holds a BS in community and public health and is nearing completion of an MS in community development with a focus in natural resource management.

Breanna Shea
is the Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa. Breanna assists in the development and implementation of communications and outreach programs for IFC projects. She is part of the IFC team working on the $96.9M Iowa Watershed Approach statewide program and serves as an effective and knowledgeable liaison between IFC researchers and external stakeholders including agency personnel, watershed management authorities, community leaders, and the general public.

Breanna holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University and is currently enrolled in the Urban and Regional Planning graduate program at the University of Iowa. She joined the IFC team in 2015 after having worked with local soil and water conservation district offices.

Jake Hansen is the Water Resources Bureau Chief with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship- Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality, a position he has held since September 2013. Hansen’s responsibilities include oversight of Water Resources Bureau staff and programs, including the Agricultural Drainage Well Closure program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Watershed Protection Fund, and the Watershed Development and Planning Assistance Program. The Water Resources Bureau also provides staffing support for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and the HUD Iowa Watershed Approach.

Prior to joining IDALS-DSCWQ, Hansen was employed for more than thirteen years at two regional planning councils in Iowa and Nebraska, providing planning and grant management services to local governments. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics with a minor in Geography from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Jessica Turba (facilitator) is an Executive Officer in the Disaster Recovery Operations Bureau of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. She is responsible for the maintenance and update of the state’s hazard mitigation and disaster recovery plans. Through the Iowa Watershed Approach, Jessica’s team will facilitate the integration of watershed planning with state and local planning mechanisms. The sustainability of the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) will include finding commonalities in the way we value water, in both and rural environments, for future project development.

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Drake University. She is currently working on certifications in project management and planning.

Part 1: Introduction: Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, Association of State Wetland Managers     Part 2: Presenter: Allen Bonini,  Iowa Department of Natural Resources 
Part 3: Presenter: Jake Hansen, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship- Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality     Part 4: Presenter: Breanna Shea, Iowa Flood Center, University of Iowa 
Part 5: Presenter: Melissa Miller, Iowa Water Center
    Part 6: Presenter: Dr. Craig Just, University of Iowa
Part 7: Moderator: Jessica Turba, Disaster Recovery Operations Bureau of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Integrated Stream and Wetland Restoration: A watershed approach to improved
water quality on the landscape

July 25, 2017 - 3:00 p.m. ET

Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, Association of State Wetland Managers [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]


Dr. Curtis Richardson, Duke University Wetland Center [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]


The Stream and Wetland Assessment Management Park (SWAMP)—a project of the Duke University Wetland Center—created over five acres of bottomland wetland floodplain and restored over 6,000 feet of degraded streambed near Duke’s West Campus. The University and government sponsors worked together on the project to improve regional water quality. SWAMP is a model system for nutrient and sediment retention, resulting in the University receiving nutrient credits from the City of Durham, North Carolina. Scientists from around the country study aspects of integrated stream and wetland restoration at SWAMP, and over 500 students each year use the site for classroom and research purposes.


Dr. Curtis Richardson is Director of the Duke University Wetland Center and the John O. Blackburn Distinguished Professor of Resource Ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Richardson directs wetland science and management research, including research on phosphorus biogeochemistry in wetland ecosystems and peatland carbon sequestration.  He is a Fellow of the Society of Wetland Scientists, the Soil Science Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Part 1: Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM 
Presenter: Dr. Curtis Richardson, Duke University Wetland Center
      Part 2: Presenter: Dr. Curtis Richardson, Duke University Wetland Center
Part 3: Presenter: Dr. Curtis Richardson, Duke University Wetland Center       Part 4: Questions/Answers 

The Naturally Resilient Communities Project: Siting Guide and Case Studies Mainstreaming of Natural Infrastructure to Address Coastal and Riverine Flooding

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 3:00 p.m.ET
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Nathan Woiwode, Risk Reduction and Resilience Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy


Naturally Resilient Communities is a partnership of county governments, professional engineers, community planners, floodplain managers and conservationists who work with communities to improve their quality of life and economies.  Supported by the Kresge Foundation, the effort includes the National Association of Counties, the American Planning Association, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Sasaki Associates, and The Nature Conservancy.
Drawing from thirty nature-based flood and erosion control strategies and a growing body of case studies, the guide, which can be accessed at www.nrcsolutions.org, is designed to help municipal leaders and their staff in communities across the country identify potential solutions that could address their specific flooding concerns.  Webex participants will learn about:

1.    The origins and purpose of the Naturally Resilient Community project.
2.    The strategy typology and how and why it was developed
3.    Select case studies
4.    A tour of the interactive siting guide

Target Audience: Planners, Engineers, Floodplain Managers and other professionals who wish to promote natural and nature-based solutions to flooding and erosion.

Nathan Woiwode manages the Nature Conservancy’s efforts to build the case for employing nature and natural systems to manage flood risk and build resilience in coastal and riverine communities across the United States. Nate earned a Masters of Public Policy and a Masters of Environmental Management from Duke University, with a focus in international development and environmental economics and policy. He holds a B.S. degree in Zoology from Michigan State University, where he studied tropical ecology and evolution.
Presenters: Jeanne Christie, Association of State Wetland
Nathan Woiwode, Risk Reduction and Resilience Project
Manager, The Nature Conservancy

The Value of Nature: Practical Applications for Managers

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 3:00 p.m. EST


Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, Association of State Wetland Managers and Jeanne Christie, Association of State Wetland Managers [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]

Elizabeth Schuster, Environmental Economist, The Nature Conservancy [POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]
Coastal and freshwater systems – especially floodplains and wetlands - provide tangible economic value to communities, yet managers often do not incorporate the value of nature into decision making. This presentation has three components: 1) An overview of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners’ guidebook, A guide for incorporating ecosystem service valuation into coastal restoration projects, 2) Practical examples of ecosystem service valuation from the field, 3) An introduction to the ESII tool to assess the value of nature in decision making, developed through a collaboration between TNC and Dow Chemical Company.

Elizabeth Schuster joined The Nature Conservancy in 2013 as an environmental economist and supports the marine and freshwater programs as well as collaborating with community economic development partners across the state of New Jersey. She also has experience in conservation and business management in both the private and nonprofit sectors. Since 1998, she has been working in project design and implementation with a focus on natural resource management and water resources in the United States and internationally.
This webinar has been preapproved for 1 CEC for CFMs who participate individually in the entire event by the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

Part 1: Marla Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM and Jeanne Christie, Association of State Wetland Managers
Presenter: Elizabeth Schuster, Environmental Economist, The Nature Conservancy
      Part 2: Presenter: Elizabeth Schuster, Environmental Economist, The Nature Conservancy 
Part 3: Presenter: Elizabeth Schuster, Environmental Economist, The Nature Conservancy       Part 4: Questions/Answers  

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