German and U.S. Innovations in River Management

Floods are the most costly natural disasters, and conventional structural solutions commonly make things worse by creating a false sense of security that encourages further development in floodplains, and disconnecting rivers from their floodplains (with resulting ecological impacts). One of the most promising areas of innovation in river management is the integration of ecosystem restoration into projects to reduce flood risk. Flood risk reduction measures in Europe must now maintain or improve river ecology (under the WFD), and in California, major flood management programs have adopted ‘co-equal goals’ of flood risk reduction and ecosystem restoration.

On October 17, IES co-sponsored a workshop exploring the integration of flood management with river restoration, drawing on recent experience in Germany and the US (especially California). Participants in "Innovations in River Management, Germany and USA: Integrating Ecosystem Restoration Into Flood Risk Management" included Juergen Geist (Technical University of Munich), Mathias Scholz (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig), Ricardo Pineda (California Department of Water Resources), Jeff Opperman (WWF), Eileen Fretz-Shader (American Rivers), John Cain (River Partners), Sarah Yarnell and Jay Lund (UC Davis). The workshop was organized by Sonja Jähnig (Leibniz Inst Freshwater Ecology), Anna Serra Llobet and Matt Kondolf (UC Berkeley) with support from the Institute of European Studies DAAD grant. The workshop was preceded by a day-long field trip to the Sacramento Valley for the visitors from out-of-town.