Home » Articles » Volume 42 » Issue 1 » Resilience and Law as a Theoretical Backdrop for Natural Resource Management: Flood Management in the Columbia River Basin

 
 

Resilience and Law as a Theoretical Backdrop for Natural Resource Management: Flood Management in the Columbia River Basin

 

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Abstract

The 1964 Columbia River Treaty entered by the United States and Canada for mutual benefits in flood control and hydropower generation is under review in anticipation of expiration of certain flood control provisions in 2024. This Article asserts that nonstructural measures should be the primary focus of new expenditure on flood risk management in the Columbia River Basin over the next sixty-year period of treaty implementation to align flood risk management with management for ecosystem resilience. Resilience is the measure of the capacity of a system to maintain important functions, structures, identity, and feedback through adaptation in the face of a disturbance. Water basin governance can enhance or detract from ecosystem resilience, thus affecting the resilience of the combined social– ecological system. Floodplains provide important ecosystem function not only as natural storage in flood risk management, but also to aquatic ecosystem resilience in general and salmonid habitat in particular. From the perspective of the social system, reliance on multiple geographically widespread locations for natural storage reduces the risk of crisis in the face of collapse of a single flood-control structure. These concepts have broad applicability to any major river basin with high hydrologic variability, and the Columbia River Basin faces a unique opportunity to employ them. Columbia River Treaty review combined with a public desire for improved ecosystem function presents an opportunity to enhance ecosystem resilience outside the emotional crisis management that ensues following a flood. Phased movement from sole reliance on centralized storage-based flood management by incremental addition of more diffuse nonstructural measures will enhance the social–ecological resilience of the Columbia River Basin. 

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