Puget Sound National Estuary Program Synthesis of Integrated Floodplain Management in Selected Puget Sound River Deltas

A 2021 synthesis report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute synthesizes leading integrated floodplain management approaches to support the Puget Sound Partnership’s Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy.

View of river with reflection of clouds and vegetation
Snoqualmie River near Duvall, WA. Photo: Steve Ginn (Public domain)

Overview

The goal of the Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy (Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead 2021) is to accelerate regional progress towards the Floodplains and Estuaries Vital Sign Indicators – increasing functional acreage of the 17 largest Puget Sound floodplains and 16 associated river delta estuaries. Progress toward the targets will help to restore critical ecosystem services in support of human well-being (cultural, economic, and flood safety) and ecological productivity and diversity. The Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy emphasizes the importance of developing and implementing a system that supports integrated floodplain management (IFM) approaches within and across Puget Sound river basins, simultaneously considering needs related to flood safety, salmon habitat, and agricultural viability.

The purpose of this synthesis is to support the Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead with future adaptive management of the Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy and to serve as a resource for integrated floodplain management practitioners in Puget Sound. The synthesis is a comparative analysis of the integrated floodplain planning process approaches of a select group of IFM groups but should not be considered an endorsement of any one approach.

The Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington Tacoma was tasked by the Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead to explore and characterize the integrated floodplain management groups, organizations and processes operating within selected river deltas in Puget Sound – the Nooksack, Samish, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie, and Snohomish.

The IFM groups include:

  • Floodplain Integrated Planning (FLIP) – operating in Whatcom County and focusing on the Nooksack River and tributaries
  • The Farm, Fish and Flood Initiative (3FI) – operating in Skagit County and focusing on the Skagit River and Samish River watershed
  • Sustainable Land Strategy (SLS) – operating primarily in Snohomish County and focusing on the Snohomish and Stillaguamish Rivers
  • Fish, Farm and Flood – operating in King County and focusing on the Snoqualmie River and tributaries

While the synthesis is primarily focused on selected groups operating in Puget Sound river deltas, additional examples of groups utilizing whole watershed approaches to integrated floodplain management are included for comparison. These include Floodplains for the Future, operating in the Puyallup watershed, and the Yakima River Basin Integrated Plan operating in the Yakima River watershed.

Each of the IFM groups detailed above are at different stages in their progression, funding and momentum levels as well as differing levels of institutional structures and support. They operate within their own unique “ecosystem” – an ecosystem defined by their respective communities, histories, resources, needs and partners. Comparative analysis of the multi-benefit planning process of each IFM group can be a resource for floodplain practitioners. By comparing the where, what, how and why of the IFM groups through understanding their background, stakeholders and partners, mission and vision, goals and objectives, funding and current projects floodplain practitioners and all those in the Puget Sound recovery community can integrate their floodplain management strategies more effectively.

This synthesis seeks to support adaptive management of the Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy. It is intended to be a resource to inform and encourage further dialogue among integrated floodplain management practitioners in order to improve the development and implementation of integrated floodplain management approaches throughout Puget Sound.

Citation

Wright, C.W. 2021. Synthesis of Integrated Floodplain Management in Selected Puget Sound River Deltas. University of Washington Tacoma, Puget Sound Institute.

View the full report