Strong public and private reactions to activation of Mississippi River floodways in 2011 illustrate how much we depend on and value floodplains in the Midwest.
Development, agriculture and conservation interests all have a stake in Midwest floodplains. Millions of acres of land are involved. Private property rights, the roles and limits of governments trying to protect those rights and the common good, and questions about who benefits from flood policies are highly controversial, visible issues.
River communities are interdependent, whether they realize it or not.
Looking ahead to perhaps greater and more frequent floods, river communities are evaluating current land use and flood reduction practices and policies to decide if they are relevant for the future. Floodplain decision makers are weighing complex options and trade-offs involving economic, social and ecological values so communities can meet the needs of diverse private stakeholders while contributing to the public good. Ironically, at a time when data seem to be overwhelming, floodplain decision makers are doing this in the face of huge information challenges, including less than adequate information.
Participants in the Floodplain Science Network have agreed to work together to fill what we see as a fundamental need of river communities and stakeholders: information that is understandable, well communicated, dependable, and sufficiently comprehensive to address complex trade-offs.
We recognize that such “new” information must still be based on accurate and detailed knowledge traditionally provided independently by hydrologists, ecologists, social scientists and economists, among others. However, we accept that as a community of professionals, our interactions and results must evolve in order to be useful in resolving real-world conflicts among diverse and legitimate stakeholders.
We pledge to collaborate and work in new ways, so the use of such information increases dramatically. We will be inclusive and open, and will foster more effective communication between non-technical audiences and ourselves.
The stakes associated with floodplain management and policy making in the Midwest get higher with each passing flood.
Potential short-term losses include lives, property and business opportunities. Long-term stakes include the capacity of our floodplain rivers to serve future generations as they now serve us, providing clean water, food, transportation, recreation, flood relief, beauty and cultural benefits.
Communities and stakeholders need relevant, accurate information to resolve recurring challenges on Midwest rivers. We build awareness and networks to encourage scientists and economists to work together to provide what is needed
We organized in 2012. Objectives and operating procedures will become more apparent in 2013 and 2014, but we’re working toward important targets that we know will test our ability to collaborate. They are:
- Develop a 5-year research strategy in response to science user needs heard at our June, 2012 workshop
- Promote effective ways to link river science and economics
- Develop communication tools and practices to effectively present information to non-technical audiences
- Promote events and activities that allow us to listen to river stakeholders, to learn more about their information needs
- Diverse Participation
Our goal is to engage people from the full diversity of Midwest floodplain river communities. Floodplain Science Network participants will include biophysical and social scientists, floodplain land managers and owners, policy coordinators, policymakers, and advocates representing both conservation and development interests.