By Heather Cole, TNC Community Relations Manager

Taking on the challenge of how we re-imagine and re-design our rivers and floodplain systems is no easy task. But in just six years, Floodplains by Design (FbD) has taken on this challenge and changed a siloed approach to floodplain management to find new solutions that have embraced collaboration and innovation across Washington State.

Last week, close to 100 practitioners all gathered for the annual FbD Spring Workshop to share learning moments, reframe old problems with new solutions and to utilize and leverage their own expertise to continue to grow and expand our collective work in these floodplains.

Working beyond our comfort areas or extending an arm to an unfamiliar partner is part of the magic of the FbD network. Paula Harris’, Whatcom County Flood Manager, words resonated across much of what was said during the day, “Believe you can make a difference. Positive energy creates positive results.” It is this kind of mind-set that keeps floodplain practitioners and state & federal agencies continually pushing the edge of what “is” relative to “what can be.” The FbD network is a source of innovation, rejuvenation and camaraderie as people work day in and day out to make change happen.

We have a lot to celebrate in the last legislative session as the FbD grant program, managed by Washington State Department of Ecology, was awarded the highest appropriation ever at $50.4 million. I reflect on this accomplishment and think of the on-the-ground work that will be completed- new levee setbacks, homes removed from harms way and families relocated to safer places, new habitat restoration projects, new technologies and critical farmland protected from development.

I also think about all the people that made these projects possible. All the people who went to the legislature to advocate for additional funding for these multi-benefit project packages. All the people who find new solutions not because it is the easy thing to do but the right thing to do. All the people who make up this FbD network.

For me the day felt inspiring, re-energizing, grounding and made me feel hopeful for what we can all achieve in a network. It leaves me hopeful not just what we can achieve individually but the power of what we can do together.  It is this power, the power of a generative network, that fosters and generates new ideas that embraces collaboration and innovation to achieve our collective vision of healthy rivers and healthy communities.