Washington communities work with nature to reduce flood risks

ORTING, Wash. (AP) — As heavy rain threatens to flood rivers this winter, many floodplain managers are trying to work with nature, rather than against it, to keep waterways from overflowing.

Instead of relying on dikes, levees and other engineered structures to protect communities, cities and counties across Washington are taking a different tack. They're giving rivers more room to meander by setting back levees and buying up land that can absorb floodwaters.

In 2013, the state Legislature set aside $44 million for the Floodplains by Design program, a partnership between the Department of Ecology, Nature Conservancy and Puget Sound Partnership.

Projects in Whatcom, King, Yakima, Kittitas, Wahkiakum and other counties are using that and other money to reduce flooding, while improving water quality, restoring fish habitat, preserving farmland and opening up public access.