E4: Resilient Communities in the Face of Rising Rivers

Resilient Communities in the Face of Rising Rivers: Integrating Stakeholder Engagement and Scientific Research to Manage Riverine Flooding Impacts

The massive flooding during 2019 in many regions of the country illustrates the impact of riverine flooding: both short duration flash floods and the much longer lasting and wider geographic impact of the Mississippi River system flooding. How to manage such impacts and build community resilience depends on the integration of science into local decision making.

This session will highlight how communities in Pennsylvania -- a state with one of the highest number of stream miles and the most flood prone rivers -- are working to incorporate science related to future flood impacts -- from larger rivers, smaller streams, and local creeks -- into their planning and infrastructure investments. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has more than 2,500 municipalities; most of these are small, rural municipalities and boroughs -- an overlooked, but important area for relating natural, built and social infrastructure. One major limitation, especially in small municipalities, is a lack of communication and sharing of information between decision-makers. How to go from communities in peril to resilient communities is a critical challenge that depends on the integration of science into decision making.

After addressing the current and predicted flood dynamics, this session will highlight how the Borough of Selinsgrove, the City of Lancaster, and the City of Pittsburgh are working to manage flood impacts. The resilience of a community to prepare for such storms, and to bounce back afterwards, is an increasingly urgent question across the United States, and the globe. This workshop and discussion will focus on the challenges, needs, and opportunities of smaller, riverine communities, using these communities as examples.


  • Robert Nicholas, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor and Assistant Director, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Lisa Iulo, Associate Professor and Director of Hamer Center for Community Design, Department of Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University