Tag Archive for: nature-based

FEMA Publishes Nature-Based Solution Guides, Advice

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
  • Greenways
  • 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:

  • Wetlands
  • Oyster reefs
  • Dunes
  • 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

Implementation includes:

  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Diverse partners must collaborate.
  3. Scaling up will require communities to align public and private investments.
  4. 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.

Local Examples

Regardless, the right combination of green solutions can make a valuable supplement to flood mitigation in every community.

The 5,000 acre Lake Houston Park provides recreational amenities and flood protection to surrounding areas.

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.

Recreational asset and flood-mitigation project.

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

TWDB Wants Your Input on Nature-Based Flood-Mitigation Solutions

Reprinted with minor edits from an article posted by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) on 9/11/2023 – Flooding is the most common and deadly disaster in the state. It has plagued Texans for generations, costing billions in property damage—and worse, loss of lives. So, flood mitigation is at the top of the list when it comes to addressing the most challenging water issues across the 269,000 square miles of Texas.

2018 NOAA Study Revealed Rainfall Assumptions Inadequate

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a study in 2018 revealing that rainfall values in some parts of Texas previously classified as 100-year events are now categorized as much more frequent 25-year events.

Varied topography and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico have always played a significant role in the state’s flood events. So has the population in Texas; it surpassed 30 million last year. according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Recent exponential growth, coupled with the already complex landscape, necessitates more forward-thinking flood planning and coordination. For instance…

We need to consider how natural features in new developments and infrastructure projects can work to our benefit to reduce flood risks.


Participate in Online Survey

To help address flood issues across the state, TWDB is conducting an online survey now through September 29. Purpose: to collect input on the use of nature-based solutions to mitigate flood risk. Responses will help develop a guidance manual for communities seeking to implement these projects.

Nature-based solutions are broad, ranging from detention and retention ponds to preservation of natural features, such as floodplains and wetlands, or may even include roadside ditches with nature-based components. Sometimes, projects designed to improve water quality or intended to provide other environmental benefits can also work to mitigate flooding.

“The work that we’re doing is from a lens of flood mitigation. But really, there are likely greater benefits for water quality, environmental enhancement, and even for public recreation and enjoyment,” said Saul Nuccitelli, the TWDB’s Director of Flood Science and Community Assistance. “We’re looking to try to integrate and connect those project benefits and encourage folks who are doing flood work to seek out ways to incorporate nature-based components into their projects.”

Examples of Nature-Based Solutions

Nature-based solutions often include community benefits:

Nature-based solutions can often provide benefits to the community while serving as flood-mitigation strategies. The Humble-Kingwood area has numerous examples of flood-mitigation solutions that improve quality of life. For example, the 100+ mile Kingwood trail network, East End Park, Creekwood Nature Preserve, River Grove Park, and the Spring Creek Nature Trail are hugely popular community amenities that reduce flood risk.

188-acre East End Park attracts more than 100,000 visitors per year. It contains 5 miles of trails weaving through meadows, forests and wetlands that reduce flood risk while enhancing quality of life for people and animals.

Goal of Survey: ID Sustainable Building Blocks for Growth

The TWDB’s survey will capture examples of projects and programs using nature-based solutions with flood mitigation benefits. TWDB wants to learn about solutions in the varying ecoregions across Texas.

The goal of the guidance manual is to make practical case studies of projects, incentive program concepts, and regulatory templates available to community officials, decision-makers, and other practitioners. Many are interested in nature-based solutions as value-added alternatives to traditional flood infrastructure.  

“If you find ways to incorporate nature-based solutions, it doesn’t mean people need to stay out of it all the time,” said Nuccitelli. “For example, you may have an area that’s wetland mitigation or wetland banking, so you may want to minimize how much traffic goes through it or what goes on there, but to the extent that you can include recreational activities associated with a project, urban economic benefit and utilizing nature can be somewhat synergistic.”

Reducing Runoff up to 5X

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when 10 to 20 percent of a watershed is covered by impervious surfaces like roads or parking lots, runoff doubles. If impervious surfaces cover 100 percent of a watershed, the runoff is five times that of a forested area, which significantly increases the potential for flooding.

Incorporating nature-based solutions into a new project could potentially help manage runoff from future growth. For example, identifying and preserving healthy stands of trees or wetlands to utilize those existing natural features as amenities, such as a pocket park or an area of trees next to homes.

Data Will Ultimately Help Build/Fund Community Resources

By developing a guidance manual, the TWDB aims to

1) Share data and information about the benefits of nature-based solutions that could then empower communities to adopt them

2) Provide tools, research, case studies, incentive program concepts, and example ordinances—anything that a community may use as a resource if it’s interested in pursuing these solutions

3) Share details about funding opportunities and grant applications for these types of projects.

“That would be a big success if communities could take what we’re developing within the guidance manual to further encourage or enhance nature-based solutions,” said Nuccitelli.

Once the survey responses are compiled and the guidance manual is developed, the TWDB plans to release the draft in the summer of 2024 for public input.

For More Information

To learn more about nature-based solutions for flood mitigation in Texas, visit the TWDB website. To take the survey, click here. It takes about 15 minutes, but is a very thought-provoking.

See more TWDB articles about flood mitigation posted in  Flood.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/13/2023 based on a TWDB article

2206 Days since Hurricane Harvey