5 Institutions Managing The Dangers Of Flooding

Massive amounts of precipitation can cause catastrophic high water events, destroying lives and taking years of recovery time for communities. Fortunately, there are many groups working to ensure that these disasters are predicted and mitigated. In no particular order, here are some organizations that strive to protect us from the hazards of flooding.

#1 on our list is the Iowa Flood Center, which is dedicated to providing real-time information and resources to help make the state more resilient to flooding. A part of the University of Iowa, the IFC offers a one-stop web platform to access forecasts, watershed and river characteristics, and other data and visualization tools.

IFC researchers, staff, and students work in collaboration to develop projects to help Iowans prepare for the worst. For example, the group's inundation maps show the extent and depth of predicted floodwaters, so that river communities can understand risks and respond quickly to imminent threats.

Entering the roundup at #2 is the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. A multi-county government in the Omaha metropolitan area, it's based out of the Chalco Hills Recreation Area at Wehrspann Lake. The NRD manages the local watershed, including its soil, vegetation, wildlife, and flood forecasting, and collaborates on programming that encourages conservation. One such program, Envirothon, is an environmentalist high school competition.

Chalco Hills features picnic sites, an arboretum, trails for hiking, jogging, and biking, and activities for children including outdoor classrooms and opportunities to meet wild animals. Wehrspann Lake has been stocked by the state Game and Parks Commission with fish. The area can be explored online as well, via an interactive map tour.

Coming in at #3 is the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, an effort to convert thousands of acres of commercial salt ponds at the south end of San Francisco Bay to a mix of tidal marsh, mudflat, and other wetland habitats. In addition to fixing up these environments, the Restoration Project provides flood management and wildlife-oriented public access and recreation.

The Project has enhanced hundreds of acres of ponds to benefit bird life, and has laid miles of new trails. Staff members are also working to raise levees, add fill, and construct new embankments to form a cohesive line of inboard stopbanks along the shoreline, in order to impede flood hazards to adjacent communities and infrastructure.

In the #4 spot is the Houston-based Harris County Flood Control District, which devises and implements flood damage reduction plans and maintains related infrastructure. Some of the FCD's main tactics for stormwater management are using detention basins to reduce the risk and frequency of destruction, and deploying an alert system to keep Harris County residents in the loop.

Hurricane Harvey resulted in extensive and unprecedented damage to the County’s drainage infrastructure. In response, the District identified sinkholes, slope failures, bank erosion, concrete voids, and other problems requiring repairs, and prioritized fixes on the basis of threats posed to commercial and residential areas and to public infrastructure.

Rounding out the list at #5 is Oregon's Multnomah County Drainage District. The MCDD helps protect lives and property by operating and maintaining flood management systems for the land along the Columbia Slough and the lower Columbia River. These systems include levees, pump stations, streams, and culverts.

The MCDD manages vegetation on the levees to ensure optimal performance during high water and heavy rain events. The District's actions include annual mowing, as well as periodic inspections to identify deficiencies and determine eligibility for federal rehabilitation assistance. MCDD employees also monitor and maintain pump stations and clear blockages from the conveyance system.