Shedding Some Light on ASFPM’s Policy Committees
In the coming year, ASFPM will be highlighting our committees in “The Insider.” Maybe you’ve heard a little bit about our 14 policy committees, but really don’t know what they are all about. Hopefully, these features will help clear up any questions you may have, and perhaps, inspire you to get involved.
This month we’re focusing on our Watershed Pod, which includes the Natural and Beneficial Functions, No Adverse Impact, and Stormwater Management Committees.
Nearly everyone interviewed for this story said that once they attended their first ASFPM national conference, they were hooked and wanted to find ways to be more involved.
David Fowler, senior project manager for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District in Wisconsin, currently serves as the pod facilitator, who coordinates the committees and serves as a liaison between the ASFPM board and co-chairs. He said he first started getting involved in 1995 with the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management, attending workshops and conferences.
“I don’t think at the time I was really even aware that there was a national association,” he said.
Fowler was also instrumental in helping to set up the Wisconsin Association for Floodplain, Stormwater and Coastal Management.
He attended his first ASFPM national conference in 1998, which just happened to be held in Milwaukee that year, and has only missed one since that time. Fowler said he got involved with ASFPM committees right away, after encouragement from Karen Kabbes, Dave Carlton, Dave Conrad, French Wetmore, Larry Larson and Bill Brown(a few of the early and future “big picture” visionaries of ASFPM).
Fowler said his first committee work was with the Multi-Objective Management committee, the genesis of today’s NBF Committee. And he said it wasn’t until he started getting involved with committees that he began to understand how all the pieces of the ASFPM puzzle fit together.
“Some people may have issues with something FEMA or other agencies are doing,” Fowler said. “This is a way to get your voice heard. I don’t live in Washington, but because I’m involved with ASFPM, I have a voice. You get to see up close and personal how things work, and help get things done. I’ve written comments to federal agencies and I’ve met with members of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation several times. It’s fascinating to see how much credibility ASFPM has in Washington. When you’re involved in committees, you begin to understand that what’s happening at the national level, really does affect what’s happening at the local level. And being involved with committees, you begin to see what you can do help local voices be heard.”
Natural and Beneficial Functions Committee
Kimberly Berginnis and Rebecca Pfeiffer serve as co-chairs for this committee.
Berginnis, an all-hazards planner in the Department of Military Affairs, Wisconsin Emergency Management, said, “I joined ASFPM in 2005 while working for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Floodplain Management Program, because it was a job requirement for me to become a CFM. I decided to get involved in the committees because I found national policy fascinating and it provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with and learn from other states struggling with similar problems. It was such a relief to find a forum for honest discussion, a place to vent, a way to share struggles/successes, and a chance to learn from experienced colleagues. Also, I found it therapeutic to connect with other people who speak our “floodplain language” and who are similarly passionate about these issues!”
Pfeiffer, the assistant NFIP coordinator and Northern Vermont Floodplain Manager for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, also said a CFM was a job requirement.
“After earning my CFM, I attended my first conference in Norfolk, VA (in 2007),” she said. “I have to admit that I thought the association would just be talking about FEMA-centric issues, but I was delighted to find other state and local floodplain programs and ASFPM committees grappling with non-inundation flood hazards and actually discussing the intrinsic values of floodplains. I was hooked and from then on, attended as many of the Watershed Pod meetings, concurrent sessions and early bird sessions that I could. A few years later, there was an opportunity to become the co-chair of the Natural and Beneficial Functions Committee. I was so busy at work that I didn’t think that I would be able to give the time to the position that would be needed. But I realized that everyone involved in the association was busy and that you have an entire committee to rely on.”
Regarding the NBF itself, Berginnis said, “I see our committee’s primary function both within and outside of ASFPM as convincing decision-makers that naturally beneficial functions of floodplains (such as space for floodwater storage, channel stabilization and reduced peak flow), have great potential to reduce flood risk to the built environment. Essentially, our committee works to add rehabilitation/preservation of natural connected floodplains to the priority list of tools to reduce flood risk. Our committee is working on several outreach projects to describe some of the tools available to community leaders to use NBF to reduce flood risk. We are looking for help and especially for successful case studies!”
Pfeiffer added, “At this time, we are providing support and information to continue to promote the benefits provided by naturally functioning floodplains and avoiding further hazards, rather than trying to use engineered stabilization and structural control measures to reduce risk. We are also working to promote the need for awareness of other flood hazards that are not identified by FEMA. We’ve recently been working on trying to enhance the information on our website by providing information and project examples for people interested in learning more about successful natural and beneficial floodplain projects and approaches. We are currently helping to organize a subcommittee to write a white paper about approaches to managing riverine fluvial erosion.”
What advice do they have for ASFPM members who haven’t joined a committee yet?
“This is your chance to add your voice to the national conversation and be part of the team working to improve the programs we work with every day. ASFPM leadership truly is at the table with our federal partners and they are actively seeking your input through the committees,” Berginnis said.
Pfeiffer said she understands that it might feel intimidating at first to get involved with ASFPM committees, “But the committees will only be stronger when you voice your questions, contribute your experiences and assist in projects that interest you. It is always helpful to have new opinions and experiences as part of a committee discussion. It is individual members who help to make the association strong!”
No Adverse Impact Committee
Alisa Sauvageot and Terri L. Turner serve as co-chairs for this committee.
Turner is the development administrator for Augusta Planning and Development in Georgia, and is also the host coordinator for ASFPM’s national conference in Georgia next year. She said, “My first conference was Norfolk, VA. I was there representing the Georgia Association of Floodplain Management chair who could not attend. I was hooked – bad – and I vowed no matter what I had to do, that Norfolk would be the first of many conferences to come. As for committee work, I never have been one to sit in the cheap seats in the stands and watch what is going on. I am one to get involved. Committees seemed like the logical solution and I fell in love with NAI from the split second I was introduced to it. It’s just a natural fit and represents who I am and what I strongly believe in.”
Sauvageot, a water resources project manager for Michael Baker International in Arizona, first got involved at the Portland, OR, conference in 1999. She tried to concisely describe NAI and the work the committee does. “We are dedicated to promoting an NAI approach to floodplain management – at the citizen level, local level, elected official level and on up the chain. Society is more knowledgeable than ever about impacts to the environment and the NAI committee is busy providing input to the production of NAI How-To Guides for local officials.
“There are so many good NAI examples that we are looking for a few volunteers to help us with administrative tracking of all these ideas. Helping us with bi-monthly committee calls, taking minutes and providing timely responses to requests for comments are all areas where a new committee member can get involved,” Sauvageot said. “The update of our strategic plan is another on-going project where we need some assistance. This plan allows the committee to prioritize the focus of additional goals and ideas, without losing track of the work we need to do in promoting NAI.”
Turner added that a considerable amount of consideration is also given to legal issues, such as “community liability and property rights that surround floodplain management, especially at the local level. While nothing can prevent all legal challenges, following the NAI approach can help to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against local governments, and greatly increase the chances that local governments will win legal challenges to their floodplain management practices.”
When asked what she would say to new ASFPM members to encourage them to get involved in committees, Sauvageot, who has served several terms as an ASFPM board director, said, “I recommend you join a committee (or two) and become an active part of that committee. I started by reviewing a white paper on a subject I wanted to learn more about. The knowledge you learn from being an active part of a national committee, can give you the tools you just might need in your job tomorrow. When I got involved with ASFPM, I knew how to do parts of my job, in just my state. I was asked to represent my peers in other states and be their voice. I did not know a lot about mitigation, floodplain management or the focus of ASFPM, but I wanted to learn and expand my knowledge. I am not an expert on any of these subjects, I just have a passion for doing the right thing, and learning. If I don’t help to make a change in the culture of how the world views floodplains today, I won’t have a voice in the outcome. A big thanks to Mark Matulik andKarl Christens for pushing me to get involved…I never looked back!”
Stormwater Management Committee
Bill Brown and Jeff Sickles are the co-chairs for this committee.
Sickles, the principal and founder of Enginuity Engineering Solutions in Denver, CO, said he attended his first ASFPM conference in 2005, and just two years later, he was elected to a Board of Director seat.
He said, “I served on the board for five years (three terms) and had the opportunity to learn and be a part of everything ASFPM was doing. This time also allowed me to familiarize myself with each of the Committee Pods and the work they were doing…In 2013, an opening became available for the Stormwater Committee and I again jumped at the chance to serve.”
Sickles explained that the Stormwater Committee primarily deals with issues related to stormwater runoff prior to its discharge into drainageways and floodplains. “We currently have several work assignments, including evaluating how low-impact development might reduce flooding, how to address residual shallow flooding zones in urban areas, water rights issues related to stormwater detention and retention, and finding ways to support the No Adverse Impact Committee as they develop tools for local floodplain administrators to develop strategies for flood mitigation.”
Brown, the stormwater executive manager for the City of Arlington, TX, said he would encourage new ASFPM members to find something that interests them. “Or if you need help with something and bring it to the attention of a committee, in all likelihood, you are not alone. The committee can serve as a resource for you and you are a resource to the committee.”
He said something similar happened to him in 1997 when he was serving on the Mapping & Engineering Standards Committee. “I had been work at DuPage County Illinois’ Department of Environmental Concerns managing the floodplain mapping efforts. The county had been seeking approval to use a continuous hydrologic model, dynamic wave model, and an alternative statistical method to map the floodplains in the county. The Mapping & Engineering Standards Committee offered an opportunity to get input and feedback from other local, regional and state agencies. It also afforded an opportunity to promote change.”
The bottom line is that committee work gives you a national voice. It benefits your local communities, expands your knowledge, and affords you the opportunity to make a real difference. But Sickles also wanted to add, “ASFPM is an organization filled with many amazing and talented people. The relationships you find here will last a lifetime, and I would encourage anyone interested in getting involved to get off the fence and join the party.”
This article was written by Michele Mihalovich,
ASFPM’s public information officer.