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Gilbert F. White National Flood Policy Forum (2007)

Floodplain Management 2050

“Floodplain Management 2050” was an invitational workshop of experts focusing how we will manage flood risk and our floodplains in the future given the increasing population, rise in housing demand, tight federal budgets, climate change and other factors. The first forum, held at the National Academies in 2004, focused on the effectiveness of the 1 percent annual chance flood standard. It initiated a dialog and a series of “actions needed” recommendations in how our knowledge of flood risk is applied. The second forum provided insight to guide policy change and research necessary to ensure that the nation’s floodplains in 2050 are properly managed and that flood damages do not continue to escalate.

The late Gilbert F. White’s 1942 dissertation, Human Adjustments to Floods, provided an alternative framework for managing flood risk that became the foundation for modern floodplain management. The following eight adjustment factors in White’s “geographic” approach to managing floods provided the context for the forum:

  1. Elevation
  2. Flood Abatement (watershed management approaches)
  3. Flood Protection (structural flood control)
  4. Emergency Measures
  5. Structural Adjustments (adjustments to buildings and infrastructure)
  6. Land Use
  7. Public Relief
  8. Insurance

These factors will provide a framework from which to evaluate expected change and to identify adaptations needed. This includes evaluating whether the adjustment factors in and of themselves meet current and future needs. From this backdrop various issues of change will be considered, including:

  1. POPULATION GROWTH: How much and where? Trends in how we live?
  2. SOCIAL FACTORS: Aging populations and changing demographics.
  3. FEDERAL BUDGETS: What can we afford for mitigation, response and recovery?
  4. HURRICANE KATRINA: What should we learn for future mega disasters?
  5. CLIMATE CHANGE: What it signals for floodplain management and the role of the floodplain manager.
  6. RISK COMMUNICATION: Before, during and after floods.
  7. TECHNOLOGY: What can it contribute to flood hazard reduction?
  8. TRANSPORTATION AND CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE: Assessing vulnerabilities.
  9. NATURAL RESOURCE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Revisiting natural and beneficial uses of floodplains.

2007 Forum Resources




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