Storing Flood Waters as part of a “National Natural Security” and “Green Infrastructure” System

While Hurricane Irene was less intense that originally predicted by meteorologists, it was not without significant local impacts. Indeed, there is still concern that Irene’s deluge will cause cresting rivers and failing dams in the Northeast even after the sun comes out.

At ERG, we know that restoring riparian corridors and establishing wetland mitigation banks can provide natural protection during and after hurricane events and other natural disasters.

The natural benefits of riparian corridors and wetlands are many. Ecologically, they provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species, recreational and open space for the public; they also serve as flood water storage areas and natural water quality treatment systems by filtering non-point source pollutants. ERG believes that encouraging wetland restoration through mitigation banks serves many green infrastructure purposes. States and the federal government should expand mitigation banking regulations to include riparian corridor, floodwater and habitat credits. These mitigation banking credits should be encouraged as a pro-private sector business opportunity.

The American Rivers Organization recently published a report: National Security: How Sustainable Water Strategies Prepare Communities for a Changing Climate, which advocates the use of green infrastructure for the future; it cites examples of successful community projects that use wetlands as a cost-effective way to provide clean water and flood protection. This report also advocates capturing rainwater for reuse, to prevent storm water damage and for pollution prevention. It is our view that credits for storm water recapture provided through a mitigation banking system would advance restoration and creation of wetlands.

Similarly, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board published, Putting a Price on Riparian Corridors as Water Treatment Facilities. This article demonstrates that natural riparian corridors can be equally effective as urban conventional water treatment facilities without the millions of dollars in average annual costs. The added benefit of restoring of the riparian corridor and wetlands for flood protection prevents millions of dollars lost in flood damage, strongly supporting a green infrastructure approach for communities.

Our opinion is that states and the federal government need to review these publications, and change their rules, regulations and policies to encourage greener infrastructure and banking credits. You can read the American Rivers report at: and the California Regional Water Quality Report at: .

We’d like to know your opinion.

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