Co-author Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone has presented our paper at the 51st ISOCARP (International Society of City and Regional Planners) congress in Amsterdam. Here is a link to the full paper.
Addressing Flooding Issues in an Environmental Justice Community: A Complicated and Multi-Layered Case Study
Authors: Mahbubur Meenar, Jeffrey Featherstone, Jamie Magaziner
How to address recurrent and severe flooding issues in a community subjected to significant environmental justice concerns? What should be the role of the surrounding communities? This paper presents a unique and complicated case study while addressing these broad questions. It focuses on a semi-urban watershed around a historic town (incorporated in 1888), located close to the City of Philadelphia, USA. For many decades, the lower-income and minority community is facing significant flooding issues threatening the local economy, public health, and overall community well-being. Presence of a decade old asbestos site made the situation even more complicated, as the contaminated site, while flooded, drains to a creek. This case study is based on a funded research project completed by Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities. The study was benefitted by multi-municipal collaboration and extensive citizen participation.
The innovative research design of this study incorporated a number of steps: direct involvement of local governments (including data collection and constant feedback), community input via open public meetings that attracted hundreds of people, community outreach (meetings, in-person discussions, online activities, door-to-door outreach activities), extensive GIS-based watershed assessment (using LiDAR data, aerial flight-based data, and extensive on-ground surveys), engineering models (hydraulic and hydrologic), possible design solutions and comparison of possible outcomes, followed by public comments and revisions, and detailed implementation strategies. The paper briefly describes all these processes and their outputs, and finally discusses the way municipal officials and residents from both the affected and surrounding communities reacted to the study findings and recommendations. There were debates associated with the newly delineated floodplain boundaries, the types of projects proposed, and the current conditions of the federal flood insurance programs. This case study is relevant to other similar communities in the USA as well other parts of the world.