Throughout history, Ohio's river systems have offered many benefits that have contributed to the development of the state. Since the time of European settlement and beyond, our rivers have been used as highways for exploration, migration, and commerce. Rivers supply our communities with energy, water supply, and even a source of waste disposal. Most of our cities have been developed in desirable settlement areas along the edges of, or at the mouth of a river. Over many decades, Ohio's communities grew and experienced very little flooding locally.
However, after two centuries, the character of Ohio's rivers and floodplains has changed drastically and the natural function of riparian ecosystems (vegetated areas along streams) has been significantly altered by human actions.
Floodplain resources, including wetlands, are experiencing increasing pressure for development. Streamside forests have been removed to make way for agricultural activities. Expanding urbanization of our watersheds deliver increased amounts of surface water into receiving streams. Streams have been straightened and channelized to allow water runoff to flow faster.
Our desire to develop in floodplains has resulted in increased danger to both humans and the function of floodplains. Table 1 illustrates some of the detrimental impacts that development can have on natural floodplains. Despite the expenditure of billions of tax dollars for flood control structures, flood losses continue to rise. Today floods cause a greater loss of life and property in the United States than all other natural hazards combined. To change this trend of rising damage, your community should consider the benefits and values of floodplain resources as you develop your community's goals.
As our scientific understanding of floodplain ecosystems continues to grow, we are realizing that floodplains represent important natural functions and values which provide opportunities and limitations for particular uses and activities.
By planning wisely and affording protection to natural floodplains, Ohio's communities can balance economic growth and urbanization. We can protect a floodplain's functions and processes to create and maintain a better quality of life and living environment for the future generations that will work and live in Ohio.
Floodplains play an integral part in the function of our river systems. The alteration or development of the floodplains eliminates or degrades these vital values and resources.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has classified the natural resources of floodplains into three groups 1) water resources, 2) biological resources, and 3) cultural resources. Table 2 identifies some of the specific benefits and values associated with floodplain resources in their naturalized (undisturbed) condition. Consider these benefits while identifying your community goals.
For additional information please contact:
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Division of Soil and Water Resources
2045 Morse Road, Bldg. B
Columbus, Ohio 43229-6693
Phone: (614) 265-6750
Fax: (614) 265-96767