Community Engagement for Vulnerable Communities: Flooding Impacts and Adaptation in East Riverdale-Beacon Heights


Flood hazards and associated damage are expected to increase in intensity and frequency in the coming years due to increased development and progressing climate change. The severity of these impacts is directly related to the characteristics of drainage basins; severity increases as impervious surface area and development in urban areas increases (USGS, n.d.). Rain events are also set to increase in both intensity and severity as the climate changes in the northeastern United States, leading to an expected 45% increase in the size of the 100-year floodplain by the end of the century (Walsh et al., 2014; Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2018; Denchak, 2019). Many residents of East Riverdale-Beacon Heights currently live in floodplains; others will likely live in a one-as floodplains increase in size. Additionally, the communities in East Riverdale-Beacon Heights are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of flooding due to higher than average flooding exposure, and lower than average socioeconomic status and educational attainment. Due to these increased flood risks, this project first evaluated flood risks for the East Riverdale-Beacon Heights communities. GIS analysis revealed that 59 residential units are currently impacted by flooding, and demographic analysis revealed that these residents may be more vulnerable to the effects of flooding, given that a majority (57.2%) of them are Hispanic, more families live below the poverty line than the County average, and the percent of adults without a high school diploma is higher than the County average. To address these findings, multiple flood mitigation strategies were researched and considered. Disregarding financial constraints and considering the vulnerability of the East Riverdale-Beacon Heights community, the best long-term strategy to mitigate flooding impacts was determined to be a buyout program and successful advertisement thereof, using communication strategies detailed in this report. However, if a buyout program is not possible, the most at-risk residents should be urged to either elevate or wet floodproof their homes. Additionally, we recommend that the County continue to acquire areas within the floodplain to use as open space and implement green infrastructure techniques to decrease the magnitude of floods. Green infrastructure recommendations in this report include permeable pavement, downspout disconnection, bioretention, blue roofs, green roofs, and urban tree canopy. These mitigation solutions should not only be adopted by the County but also recommended to citizens in the East Riverdale-Beacon Heights area. The County should continue to use the websites and mailing systems they have in place and update the information to include the findings of this report. Moreover, this project has determined that the best way to communicate this information is through the consistent use of multiple social media platforms and, most importantly, public outreach meetings and events. Outreach events allow the County to make flooding information more accessible and explain more complex information through conversation. In conclusion, Prince George’s County can optimally decrease flood risk for the maximum number of residents, both inside and outside of East Riverdale-Beacon Heights, by implementing as many of these strategies as possible. Using strategies that decrease exposure, hazard, and vulnerability can cohesively and systematically increase flood resiliency for this human-environmental system.


Final project for ENSP400: Capstone in Environmental Science & Policy (Fall 2019). University of Maryland, College Park.