FEMA has published two flood-mitigation guides on nature-based solutions showing how communities can develop projects with multiple benefits.
Both are titled “Building Community Resilience with Nature-Based Solutions.” But one focuses on “Strategies for Success.” The other focuses on “A Guide for Local Communities.” Together, they build a case for integrating green and gray solutions to improve resilience.
While geared toward policy makers, planners and flood-mitigation professionals, they will also help community leaders, activists, students and anyone interested in weaving green solutions into flood mitigation, whether on the watershed, community or household level.
These are not technical guides. They focus on high-level benefits and are packed with helpful examples and case studies. The writing is clear, compelling and easy to understand.
“Strategies for Success” Summarized
Strategies for Success is organized around five major themes.
- Building strong partnerships
- Engaging the whole community
- Matching project size with desired goals and benefits.
- Maximizing benefits.
- Designing for the future.
If you wonder what the term “nature-based solutions” includes, see pages 17-22. They complement gray (engineered) solutions in many ways in many environments.
At the watershed scale, they can include:
- Land conservation
- Wetland restoration and protection
- Stormwater parks
- Floodplain restoration
- Fire management
- Bike trails
- Setback levees
- Habitate management
At the neighborhood or site scale, they include:
- Rain gardens
- Vegetated swales
- Green roofs
- Rainwater harvesting
- Permeable pavement
- Tree canopy
- Tree trenches
- Green streets
- Urban greenspace
In coastal areas, they include:
- Oyster reefs
- Waterfront parks
- Living shorelines
- Coral reef
- Sand trapping
The section about maximizing benefits will help leaders sell such projects to their communities. It contains helpful tips that improve value and case studies that dramatize it.
The guides also come with links to additional resources.
“Guide for Local Communities” Summarized
This guide begins by reprising many of the same solutions mentioned above. Then it quickly moves into three main sections:
Building the business case for nature-based solutions summaries their potential cost savings and non-monetary benefits. They include:
- Hazard mitigation benefits in a variety of situations/locations
- Community co-benefits, such as ecosystem services, economic benefits, and social benefits
- Community cost savings, such as avoided flood losses, reduced stormwater management costs, reduced drinking water treatment costs.
Planning and Policy Making covers:
- Land-use planning
- Hazard mitigation planning
- Stormwater management
- Transportation planning
- Open-space planning
- Boosting public investment
- Financing through grants and low interest loans
- How to incentivize private investment
- Federal funding opportunities
Key takeaways include:
Communities that invest in nature-based approaches can save money, lives, and property in the long-term AND improve quality of life in the short term. Other key takeaways are:
- The biggest selling point for nature-based solutions is the many ways they can improve a community’s quality of life and make it more attractive to new residents and businesses.
- Diverse partners must collaborate.
- Scaling up will require communities to align public and private investments.
- Many types of grant programs can be leveraged for funding.
I’ll add one more: It’s easier to build these into communities as they are developing rather than retrofit them after the fact.
Regardless, the right combination of green solutions can make a valuable supplement to flood mitigation in every community.
Many great examples of a nature-based solutions surround us locally. Look at Lake Houston Park; Kingwood and The Woodlands which have greenbelts and bike trails along creeks; the Spring Creek Greenway; and the Bayou Land Conservancy’s Arrowwood Preserve.
Parks like Kingwood’s East End make more great examples. East End preserves wetlands, accommodates tens of thousands of visitors each year, and provides valuable habitat for wildlife.
Interested in getting more projects like this started near you? As a starting point, please share these brochures with leaders in your community. And support local groups seeking to preserve green spaces such as the Bayou Land Conservancy.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/23/23
2046 Days since Hurricane Harvey