Rivers don’t always respect property lines. When their waters reach their banks, they flood, and that flooding doesn’t discriminate between houses, businesses, roads, or rails – water goes where it needs to go. That’s why we build levees. But what about when the levees are deemed inadequate?
That’s the situation Pierce County began facing in 2008. Multiple issues surrounded the Puyallup River flood protection system – most notably, FEMA’s decertification of the levee system, which resulted in new flood plain designations and restrictions along the river, which cuts through residential and business areas and is adjacent to a well-used rail line. Pierce County convened an Executive Task Force that included representation from all of the cities involved, the port, a tribe, and relevant agencies to work on these issues, and asked EnviroIssues to help.
Since the task force was formed, EnviroIssues provided strategic facilitation services to the team: neutral, third-party facilitation to help the task force focus its efforts on collaboration, surfacing and addressing competing goals and interests, and finding regionally acceptable and fundable solutions to the issues surrounding flooding in the Puyallup River watershed. The issues they tackled included short and long-term funding strategies, potential flooding protection alternatives, and participation in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers General Investigation Study. Based on the task forces funding recommendation, a new taxing authority, the Flood Control Zone District was established. The task force was ended as scheduled and their work was picked up by the new District’s Advisory Committee.
Their work continues, looking at all the flood issues in the County, and so does ours. EnviroIssues continues to assist the District’s Advisory Committee as they work with the Corps of Engineers and other agencies on solving difficult, complex problems that often present conflicting priorities for the different municipalities. EnviroIssues’ facilitation skills kept the group and the conversation focused on the most important goal: developing a safe and reliable flood protection system that ensures the Pierce County economy keeps rolling along.