A hundred years ago, city planners and engineers tried to improve a place – making the lands more orderly and useful for new residents – by straightening a meandering river.
But today, planners, engineers, and residents all wrestle with the unintended consequences of these actions. Flooding risk has increased and salmon and other wildlife populations have been devastated. The levee system – once a source of community pride – was not designed to withstand today’s higher water flows and needs constant and expensive maintenance.
It has become a daunting task to manage the major river, and ensure that water coming off the flanks of Mt. Rainier safely passes through the half a million people now living in the watershed. And at the same time to balance the complex, and at times competing, values of local communities. The communities living along the river today value their wild salmon runs, they want to see a thriving agricultural community, and they value the economic boost that comes with new developments.
“Instead of continually throwing good money after bad – trying to fix old problems, we are now investing in solutions that will appreciate over time.”
-Hans Hunger, Pierce County, Surface Water Management Division
Something needed to be done.
“We have a lot more in common than not in common.”
-Russ Ladley, Puyallup tribe of Indians, On first time meeting with local farmers in the Puyallup Valley.
The change is nothing short of transformational. Now, a diverse and collaborative group of partners -people that share stewardship of the floodplain – co-own the responsibility for building a better watershed. Floodplains by Design supported local efforts as they moved from piecemeal efforts with limited potential to a holistic vision for the watershed.