Support capital funding for Floodplains by Design


UPDATE: THE LETTER TO GOVERNOR INSLEE HAS CLOSED AS OF NOVEMBER 12, 2020. IF YOU ADD YOUR SIGNATURE AFTER THIS DATE, IT WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE LETTER TO CAPITAL BUDGET WRITERS TO BE DELIVERED IN LATE JANUARY 2021.

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Identical letters will be sent to Governor Inslee (in November) and to capital budget writers (in January).

Please contact brittany.gallagher@tnc.org with any questions.

Thank you!

NOTE: Minor typos in the letter as it appears below have been corrected for the final version to send to Olympia.

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November 3, 2020

Dear Governor Inslee / Dear Legislative Leaders,

Thank you for your support of Floodplains by Design, a popular, cost-effective public-private-tribal-agricultural partnership that delivers critical results for communities, conservation and Washington’s urban and rural economies. We write today to respectfully request that you include $70 million in your 2021-23 biennial capital budget for Floodplains by Design.

Administered by the Department of Ecology, Floodplains by Design has been supporting tribal nations, farmers, and flood managers across the State to transform how floodplains are managed since 2013. Local demand for this type of collaborative multi-benefit investment has only grown and become more sophisticated in its ability to provide local results and leverage public investment.

Among the 2021 FbD projects are broadly supported packages that protect farmland; restore estuaries; remove, improve or set back levees, improve agricultural drainage, reduce flood hazards, restore salmon and shellfish habitat, and more. These projects are the result of hard work by local governments, tribes, farmers, watershed groups, the conservation community, salmon recovery advocates and state and federal agencies to come together to craft creative and unique suites of actions that deliver reach and watershed scale change. They would create an estimated 2,689 jobs impacting at least 38 legislative districts throughout the state, many of which are currently experiencing nearly double-digit unemployment.

Floodplains by Design projects reduce flood risk, restore salmon habitat, deliver vital resources in support of agriculture, increase access to public lands and outdoor recreation, and create local jobs. This funding is a tremendous investment opportunity. By prioritizing and rewarding collaborative, integrated decision-making, the State can reduce conflict in local communities and better spend limited public dollars. Investment in Floodplains by Design, paired with flood dollars, salmon and orca recovery investments and agricultural programs can begin to deliver results at a pace and scale demanded by growth, climate change and failing infrastructure. Washingtonians depend on healthy, livable, safe floodplains, and local communities need state support and incentives to better manage river systems in holistic way that builds community, economic and environmental resilience.

At a time when Washington’s iconic orca and the salmon they depend on are in peril, Floodplains by Design has reconnected more than 7,000 acres of floodplain – critical habitat for chinook salmon – and restored more than 50 miles of river. Climate change is increasing flows in our rivers by tens of percentage points and flood managers are working hard to reduce risk and protect public safety. Since 2013, Floodplains by Design projects have removed 434 homes and other structures from high-risk areas and reduced flood danger in 59 communities. Farmland in Washington state is disappearing at an alarming rate, increasing floodplain development pressures and associated flood risk. Floodplains by Design projects have protected more than 1,300 acres of working lands, including farmland, dairies, aquaculture sites and ranches, creatively funded projects that keep critical floodplain dairies viable by investing in new technologies to treat dairy waste while improving water quality, and improved infrastructure benefiting another 7,800 acres of working lands.

Resilient communities

The program not only helps sustain local economic productivity, the infrastructure works it funds creates hundreds of local high-paying engineering and construction jobs. This year has been remarkably challenging for Washingtonians across our state in many ways – with a public health emergency, continued climate-change exacerbated disasters, social unrest and economic losses for many. Beyond the health impacts of COVID-19, community and economic systems are strained, and workers across the state have lost their livelihoods. Capital investments get people to work. Capital investments in flood risk reduction simultaneously protect communities from devastating floods that would be even harder to recover from. Investments in salmon recovery sows the seeds for a return of harvestable fish for cultural, recreational and commercial purposes. Investment in our farm communities keeps food local, keeps our economy diversified and supports hard-hit rural communities.

It has also been a time when more and more families find solace in the outdoors. Floodplains by Design has created or improved 25 public areas where Washingtonians and visitors can go to find respite and renewal in nature – creating more opportunities for improving not just physical resilience, but spiritual resilience as well.
It’s clear that now, more than ever, it is time to invest in Washington’s people and natural places.

Floodplains by Design supports cultural, ecosystem and economic well-being – since 2013, it has created 2,755 new jobs across Washington, supporting 45 watershed-scale projects in 16 counties. Scientists find fish in the newly built restoration sites, farmers see another year they can farm, and many people are proud to have jobs that contribute to a State they love. By working toward the goals held by diverse people in a community and by working at a landscape scale, communities are coming together to shape their own future – one in which they are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including abnormally destructive floods, mudslides and extreme storms.

A record of results

From the Olympic Peninsula to the Palouse, and Bellingham to Vancouver, Floodplains by Design projects have improved outcomes for flood risk reduction, working lands and fish and wildlife habitat along 15 major rivers. Flood managers, tribal nations, farmers and community organizations are developing clear plans for how to solve their community problems. This is much-needed work. As communities work together more closely and link funding sources, staff resources, and previously disconnected plans – a path forward is ever increasingly emerging. Because communities are seeing actual results that matter, resources better leveraged, and time spent more efficiently, the program continues to grow as a trusted tool that can respond to creative solutions brought forward by local collaborations.

More than half the 7,217 acres of floodplains FbD projects have reconnected since the program began is the result of work that was funded in the 2019-21 biennium, when the Legislature appropriated $50.4 million for the program – its highest appropriation yet. Floodplains by Design is poised to rapidly scale up multiple-benefit results in communities across Washington with increased public investment.

Time to Invest

We ask for your support for $70 million in capital funding for Ecology to incentivize collaboration on flood risk reduction, salmon recovery and working lands protection and enhancement through its Floodplains by Design program. With a capital investment of $70 million, Floodplains by Design projects in the 2021-23 biennium would leverage another $91 million in funding from other sources, resulting in $161 million in support for getting Washingtonians back to work. This investment will also increase our collective climate resilience, reducing risk, protecting land and water and restoring habitat and – perhaps most importantly – fueling the hope and hard collaborative work represented in the suite of projects that are ready to go. Thank you.

Respectfully,

The Undersigned
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