Communicating the Economic Outcomes of Urban Floodplain Restoration to Decision Makers

Year: 2023
Presenter/s: Brandon Parsons
Symposium Session: 2023 - 07 - Restoration as Risk Reduction: Flooding
Topics covered: flood, lessons learned, and urban


Floodplain restoration has proven to reduce flood risk, increase ecosystem services and has the potential to create high quality public space which can drive economic growth. However, local decision makers are often unaware of these benefits and their contribution to community revenue and budgets.
This talk presents new research to clarify the economic outcomes of urban floodplain restoration and provide tools to help restoration practitioners more effectively communicate outcomes to decision makers with the goal of informing new plans, policies, and funding mechanisms intended to drive floodplain restoration at scale.

Over the last three years, we have compiled quantitative research from a national literature review, developed original case studies in Puget Sound and interviewed community leaders on the outcomes of urban floodplain restoration. Our findings show that restoring floodplains and promoting economic activity are not mutually exclusive and that floodplain restoration can yield positive net economic impacts in the form of avoided costs of flooding, increased job creation and business development, additional tax revenue, and provide a valuable community amenity. Positive impacts become more pronounced when projects are designed to include multiple benefits integrated across a corridor or watershed.

Our research has been used to inform new integrated floodplain management policies and large-scale planning efforts such as the Lower Green River Flood Hazard Management Plan and the Chehalis Basin Strategy’s Local Actions Non-Dam Alternative (LAND).