Sharing Lessons Learned and Best Management Practices

Steven SchauerUncategorized

By Steven Schauer, Deputy Executive Director

Effective government relies on collaboration and knowledge sharing. Government agencies, like the King County Flood Control District (KCFCD), play a pivotal role in shaping policies, implementing programs, and addressing the needs of the communities they serve. While the value of frugality is undeniable, in an ever-evolving landscape marked by technological advancements, changing demographics, and emerging challenges like climate change, participating in national conversations, attending conferences, and engaging in travel to share information and learn about best management practices is not just beneficial, it’s imperative. Here’s why:

1. Innovation and Problem-Solving: Collaborating with counterparts inspires new ideas and adapts best practices for effective local solutions.

2. Shared Expertise: Conferences keep agencies informed of the latest trends and innovations, ensuring they remain responsive to evolving needs.

3. Collaboration and Networking: Connecting with experts leads to partnerships and resource-sharing, vital for addressing complex challenges.

4. Policy Development: Insights gained from others inform evidence-based policy development, benefiting constituents.

5. Benchmarking and Performance Improvement: Learning from others’ experiences enhances performance and capacity through skill development.

6. Visibility and Representation: Participation in conferences not only showcases achievements but also contributes to important discussions and advocacy efforts, enhancing credibility and trust.

Lessons from Broward County

In mid-April, a KCFCD delegation traveled to Broward County, Florida, to study innovative flood management strategies. Led by Chair Reagan Dunn and Supervisor Pete von Reichbauer, along with Executive Director Michelle Clark and Deputy Executive Director Steven Schauer, the delegation sought insights due to South Florida’s unique challenges, including rising sea levels and intense storms.

The visit included meetings with officials from the City of Fort Lauderdale Public Works, Sustainability Division and the South Florida Water Management District. These sessions involved detailed presentations, site visits, and discussions on policies and projects aimed at addressing flooding, climate change, and resiliency challenges. The visit reaffirmed the transformative power of proactive flood mitigation strategies, integrated, multibenefit planning, and inclusive community engagement in building resilience against climate change impacts and a more sustainable future for the residents of King County.

Dr. Nancy J. Gassman, Assistant Director of Public Works – Sustainability (pictured), commented about the visit, “The City of Fort Lauderdale was pleased to host the King County Flood Control District delegation. These exchanges provide new perspective on the emerging issues facing the nation due to climate change. Lessons learned can speed adaptation for more resilient communities.”

Following the visit, Chair Dunn said, “In the face of climate change, the important work of flood mitigation and resiliency is evolving quickly, with new research, technologies, and methodologies emerging continuously. Confronting similar challenges of changing rainfall patterns and rising tides, the King County Flood Control District draws inspiration from the exchange of experiences, successes, and challenges with counterparts across different regions of the country.”

“This exchange of knowledge is a two-way street,” added Supervisor von Reichbauer. “By comparing notes, we can cross-pollinate ideas, learn from each other’s approaches, and adapt best practices to our specific contexts.”

“Ultimately,” concluded Chair Dunn, “this collaboration leads to more effective solutions that directly benefit our local communities.”

NAFSMA Mentoring Session

Later in April, Michelle and Steven joined others from across the nation at a meeting hosted by the National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA) in Denver. NAFSMA supports agencies like KCFCD in navigating policies, regulations, and funding programs associated with FEMA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and EPA.

The meeting – Mentoring Session on Future Flood Risk Data for Community Resilience – allowed FEMA leadership from Washington, D.C. to provide information on the Future of Flood Risk Data program, which included information about how the National Flood Insurance Program is being transformed and an overview of the new flood risk data FEMA intends to collect over the next 10-years. There was a roundtable discussion following FEMA’s presentations for the local agencies in attendance to provide valuable input directly to FEMA leadership, helping shape national decisions and policies that will be incorporated in the Future of Flood Risk Data process.

The KCFCD was also invited to present at the meeting. Michelle presented KCFCD’s success in communicating flood risk using non-regulatory methods, particularly through the Public Health Navigators, who helped advise and implement community engagement for the recently completed Lower Green River Corridor Flood Hazard Management Plan Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The Navigators assessed and evolved communications materials, helping to develop culturally relevant materials, and they educated, engaged, and gained feedback from community members at approximately 40 community events. Their important work secured over 2,250 community comments, in 6 different languages, during the review process for the draft PEIS.

The stunning success of the public engagement completed by the Public Health Navigators on behalf of the KCFCD was not lost on the audience of agencies from around the United States. As a result of Michelle’s presentation, a direct line of communication with FEMA leadership was established as the federal agency was impressed with the work of the Navigators and is interested in incorporating the lessons learned from the KCFCD’s experience into the Future of Flood Risk Data program. Additionally, Michelle was immediately invited to give her presentation again on May 22nd at another webinar facilitated by NAFSMA. The Strategies for Community Engagement and Environmental Justice on Water Infrastructure Projects session is geared for a national audience of NAFSMA members to facilitate collaboration and peer support about best practices and strategies for community engagement and environmental justice in water infrastructure.

“NAFSMA hosted over 65 people in Denver to collaborate on Future Flood Risk Data (FFRD),” said Sunny Simpkins, NAFSMA’s Executive Director (pictured). “The goal of FFRD is to develop and share more comprehensive flood hazard risk to communities to increase their resilience. It was so valuable to have Michelle Clark from King County Flood Control District (KCFCD) present on KCFCD’s engagement efforts using Public Health Navigators to reach people that are being impacted the most by flooding. Sharing success stories like KCFCD’s is so important to building resilience in our communities.”

The Significance of Sharing Lessons Learned

The KCFCD has benefited from lessons learned by other agencies as well as sharing our best management practices. In essence, government travel and conferences, when conducted strategically and with clear goals, are not simply expenditures, but investments. The opportunity to share information and learn about best management practices is essential for government agencies to remain effective, innovative, and responsive in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

The KCFCD will continue to prudently invest in these opportunities for knowledge exchange, capacity building, and networking, so we can better fulfill our mandate of protecting life and property from flooding and delivering the best possible public services to build stronger, more flood resilient, and sustainable communities.