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Floodplains are resources too

When we build in the floodplain, we reduce the floodplain's storage capacity thereby enabling a subsequent flood of equal intensity to crest higher than it would have. There are consequences to development within floodplains. Mark Van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation, provides the following perspective on floodplain development:

"The past 60 years provide ample testament to the error of treating rivers, floodplains and floods as forces to be conquered. All too often we've seen rivers straight jacketed into concrete chutes and floodplains transformed into suburbs. Unfortunately, nature's reminders that we are not its master too often produce more flood victims, more damaged property and ever more costly disaster relief and rebuilding obligations assumed by the federal government."

Floodplains are valuable. A 1994 federal report looked at the important roles they play.

Water resources -
Floodplains . . .

 This tidal habitat is protected from erosion that can occur during flooding and tropical storm events.
  • Natural flood and erosion control
    • Provide areas of floodwater storage
    • Reduce flood velocities, giving us more time to react to floods
    • Reduce flood peaks
    • Reduce sedimentation
  • Soil and Water
    • Filter nutrients and impurities from runoff
    • Process organic wastes
    • Help moderate temperature fluctuations
  • Groundwater recharge
    • Promote infiltration and recharge of the aquifer
    • Slowly release water to reduce infrequency and duration of low surface flows

Biological resources -
Floodplains . . .

  • Fish and wildlife habitat
    • Provide breeding and feeding grounds
    • Create and enhance waterfowl habitat
    • Protect habitat for rare and endangered species

The great blue heron is among the biological resources that benefit from good floodplain management.