American Rivers releases report on 21st century flood protection solutions

March 11th, 2011

Shana Udvardy, Director, Flood Management Program, 202-243-7056
Amy Kober, Senior Communications Director, 503-827-8648

Washington, DC – As heavy rains swell rivers across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, American Rivers today released a report stressing the urgent need for flood protection solutions that safeguard communities and save taxpayer dollars. The report, “Natural Defenses: Safeguarding Communities from Floods,” calls on Congress and the Obama Administration to prioritize river restoration and protection and other 21st century approaches to flood risk management.

“Natural Defenses” refers to flood protection solutions provided by healthy rivers, floodplains, wetlands and forests. Over the past centuries we have destroyed these natural defenses by straightening rivers, paving over wetlands, and building in floodplains. We have spent billions on dams and levees, but flood damage continues to increase, costing taxpayers $15 billion annually. American Rivers is a national leader calling for natural flood protection solutions that safeguard communities, save money, and provide additional benefits like clean water, wildlife habitat, and recreation.

“Millions of Americans are living in harm’s way with inadequate protection from increasingly frequent floods,” said Shana Udvardy, director of flood management for American Rivers. “We can’t afford to throw money away on outdated flood management measures that actually make the problem worse. It is time to invest in protecting and restoring healthy rivers and other natural defenses that safeguard communities and save us money.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flooding is the most frequent severe weather threat and the costliest natural disaster facing the nation. Ninety percent of all natural disasters in the U.S. involve flooding. Extreme weather events, outdated flood management approaches and policies, underfunded and underutilized green infrastructure, and increasing urbanization are causing a flood management crisis for federal agencies and communities alike.

The “Natural Defenses” report contains recommendations to move our country toward a comprehensive and integrated approach to flood management. Needed actions include:

  • Congress should pass legislation that reforms the National Flood Insurance Program to better communicate flood risk and implement mitigation measures to keep communities safe and our environment healthy.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should put in place incentives to reduce flood risk and incorporate green infrastructure.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must eliminate the institutional bias towards structural approaches and prioritize green infrastructure solutions that protect and restore wetlands and floodplains. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) should adopt an overarching flood management strategy that increases economic incentives for farmers to store flood waters on their lands.

Read the executive summary of Natural Defenses: Safeguarding Communities from Floods at www.americanrivers.org/naturaldefenses.

Watch the video, Restoring America’s Rivers: Preparing for the Future at www.americanrivers.org/dvd.


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.