The State of Flood Risk Reduction in the United States: Are We Reducing Risk or Incentivizing It?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
2:15 – 4:00 PM Eastern
Hosted by The Horinko Group’s Water Division

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Since the signing of Presidential Executive Order 11988 on Floodplain Management in 1977, many would argue that instead of pursuing floodplain management we have invested in the regulated development of floodplains and paid dearly for it. In fact, it could be further argued that most structural flood risk reduction measures actually have increased flood risk because they have had the unintended consequence of incentivizing further development in flood-prone areas under the promise of protection that levees and subsidized insurance promote.

The business of floodplain management has had its success stories certainly, more so in recent years, but the losses continue to mount at great public cost. Local floodplain development practice has been characterized as “privatize and localize the gains, and socialize and federalize the loss.” All states and hundreds of local governments face mounting challenges with deficient and aging levees, the risks they pose, and requirements to manage those risks with insurance and zoning.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century the debate continues. At present, much discussion is taking place about the future of the National Flood Insurance Program, identification and management of flood risk associated with levees, the need to restore the ecological function and benefits of floodplains for flood storage, open space, and habitat, and how to change human behavior to put us on a more sustainable and resilient path.

Robert Freitag, author of Floodplain Management, A New Approach for a New Era, calls for a new paradigm for flood management, one that clearly emphasizes cost-effective, long-term success based on working with the natural tendencies of rivers and tidal areas and retreating from harm’s way.

Are we to continue to externalize the costs of local development decisions to the taxpayers nationwide? What is the Federal interest in reducing flood risk? What is the Federal charge to do so? What modifications are needed to the current mix of incentives and disincentives for states and local governments to reduce flood risk? Can we find the political will to return to the spirit and promise of E.O. 11988?

Hear from the Experts

At the local, state, regional, and federal levels, deliberations are ongoing on how best to chart a sustainable path forward. NGOs have joined the discussion and progress is being made to call greater attention to the urgency of this issue, but a collective resolve will be necessary if the effort is to gain political traction in these days of deficit spending and multiple distractions.

In May 2011, The Horinko Group, as part of its 2011 Global Sustainability Webinar Series, will host a panel of thought leaders and practitioners to discuss the status of Flood Risk Management in the United States and the prognosis for moving the effort in a sustainable direction that reduces risk and gradually restores the ecological services performed by our nation’s floodplains.


Panelists include a seasoned line-up of professionals:

    • Sam Riley Medlock (Moderator)Policy Counsel, Association of State Floodplain Managers

      Ms. Sam Riley Medlock, JD, CFM, is Policy Counsel & Partnerships Program Manager for the Association of State Floodplain Managers, serving dual roles for the Association and the ASFPM Foundation to provide leadership in national flood policy initiatives and foster partnerships with allied agencies, organizations, and academia in service to our members and mission. Sam has more than eighteen years of experience in land use law, hazard mitigation, and environmental policy working with stakeholders, regulators, and utilities, as Supervisor of Floodplain Programs for the Lower Colorado River Authority; Director of Planning for Flower Mound, Texas; Environmental Planner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments; and with disaster recovery teams in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua following Hurricane Mitch. While working with the NCTCOG and LCRA, both FEMA Cooperating Technical Partners, Sam was directly involved in federal flood studies and NFIP mapping activities in rapidly urbanizing areas.

      Ms. Riley Medlock is a Juris Doctor graduate of Vermont Law School, has a Bachelor of Science in Government summa cum laude from Texas Woman’s University, and has been a Certified Floodplain Manager since 2001.


  • Sandra Knight, Deputy Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation, Federal Emergency Management AgencyDr. Sandra Knight assumed her duties as the new Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator for Mitigation at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on January 4, 2010. Dr. Knight provides executive leadership, oversight and supervision for the development and administration of regulations, policies and procedures for the Risk Reduction and Risk Analysis Divisions and Offices of Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation, and Regional and Disaster Support. This includes Floodplain Mapping, Floodplain Management, Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants, Building Sciences, Mitigation Planning, Dam Safety, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, and hazardous risk assessment methodologies. Dr. Knight is a member of the Senior Executive Service and comes to FEMA from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where she served as the Director of the Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation.

    Dr. Knight received her doctorate in Civil Engineering from the University of Memphis in 1996. She is a registered professional engineer in the state of Tennessee. She has been certified by the American Academy of Water Resource Engineers as a Diplomate, Water Resource Engineer and most recently by the newly formed Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port & Navigation Engineers (ACOPNE) Board of Trustees as a founding inaugural Diplomate, Navigation Engineering (D.NE).

  • Alex Dornstauder, Deputy Director for Homeland Security, U.S. Army Corps of EngineersMr. Alex Dornstauder assumed duties as the Deputy Director for Homeland Security, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on 24 October 2010. In this role, he serves as the Program Director, Business Line Manager, and Community of Practice Leader for USACE’s Flood Risk Management, Critical Infrastructure and Resiliency, and Emergency Management programs. Mr. Dornstauder’s previous assignment was as the Executive Director for Civil and Emergency Operations at Headquarters, USACE from August 2007 until his retirement from Active Duty in June 2010.

    Mr. Dornstauder served as a commissioned officer in the U. S. Army from 1980 to 2010 after his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger Schools, the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms Service and Staff School, the Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and the Naval War College. He holds a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is also a doctoral candidate, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Hawaii, a Master of Military Arts and Science from the Advanced Military Studies Program at Fort Leavenworth, and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

  • Larry Larson, Executive Director, Association of State Floodplain ManagersMr. Larry Larson is a founding member of Association of State Floodplain Managers, Inc., established in 1977. He was the national Chair from 1979-82 and has volunteered as the Executive Director since 1982 until it became a half-time paid position in February, 1997. As the Executive Director he serves as an agent of the Association in accordance with the directives of the Board of Directors and the guidelines of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Association. His responsibilities include: coordinating the implementation of ASFPM policies and directives set by the Board of Directors, coordinating and communicating with federal agencies, the Administration, and Congressionals involved in floodplain management, communicating and coordinating mutual activities with other professional organizations involved in floodplain management and providing liaison to and seek input from members, chapters, and corporate sponsors.

    Mr. Larson graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Wisconsin and California.

  • James Fiedler, President, National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management AgenciesMr. Jim Fiedler has over 30 years of experience in the area of water supply, flood control and watershed stewardship, primarily with the Santa Clara Valley Water District. His management and technical experience includes regional water resources, flood and environmental planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance of water supply and flood protection infrastructure. He is currently Chief Operating Officer for the District’s Water Utility Enterprise. He is responsible for leading Santa Clara’s policy development and program implementation of water importation, surface reservoir operations, groundwater management, raw and treated water delivery, wholesale treated water, water recycling and water conservation. He also serves as the Chair of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, President of the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies, and Vice-President of the San Francisco Bay Planning Coalition.

    Mr. Fiedler is a registered Civil Engineer and received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Loyola Marymount University and an M.S. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University.

  • Andrew Fahlund, Senior Vice President for Conservation, American RiversMr. Andrew Fahlund was appointed Vice President for Conservation for American Rivers in 2004. Leading a staff of 50, his department is responsible for developing, advocating, and implementing innovative policy and science tools to protect and restore healthy rivers and the communities that depend upon them. He and his team are particularly focused on ensuring that both human and natural communities are prepared and resilient in the face of a changing climate. He currently serves as the co-chair of the Clean Water Network’s Global Warming working group and is an advisor to the Johnson Family Foundation’s Freshwater Forum. Previously, Mr. Fahlund directed the organization’s fieldwork and national policy efforts to modify the operation of dams and remove those that no longer make sense. Mr. Fahlund has also focused on water supply policy with a specific emphasis on interstate compacts and water disputes. He has served on several governmental advisory groups, testified before the United States Senate and House of Representatives as well as numerous federal agencies, and participated in various policy forums and negotiations addressing water policy in the United States.

    Mr. Fahlund received his M.S. in Natural Resource Policy from the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment with honors. He previously worked as a water conservation advocate in Colorado, a field archaeologist in the Pacific Northwest, and an instructor in human ecology and field archaeology at Colorado College.

Who Should Attend?

This webinar is intended for water resources professionals, local community planners, local officials, state and federal regulators, county floodplain program managers, NGOs interested in the future of floodplain management, political scientist students, and educators.

Join us for this webinar to learn about the:

    • State of the Nation’s vulnerability to flood disasters, as well as an overview of local, state, and Federal roles in floodplain management;


    • Key Federal policy initiatives underway to reduce that vulnerability;


    • Overall benefits of sound floodplain management; and,


  • Perspectives of leading practitioners, program managers, and floodplain management advocates on current efforts to address challenges to more effectively protect natural resource functions of floodplains while reducing the hazards to people and communities.