GEOMORPHOLOGY APPLIED: THE 2011 MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLOOD AND THE OLIVE BRANCH FLOOD RECOVERY INITIATIVE
It is axiomatic to most scientists that flooding is a natural process that leads to disasters only when humans and human infrastructure are sited inappropriately. This paradigm – part of the "Room for the River" approach – is a good starting point, but one that fails to penetrate far into the realities of U.S. flood regulations and politics. Olive Branch residents and local leaders have been remarkably open to retreat from the floodplain. With support from the Walton Family Foundation, residents toured other towns in various stages of disaster recovery. We also convened a "charette" event, attended by national-level architects and planners who worked hand-in-hand with residents and developed detailed plans for a flood-resilient Olive Branch. Several large-scale funding requests have been submitted, with others pending. The 2011 flood and the on-going post-flood recovery in Olive Branch illustrate some successes in integrating sound science and engineering into floodplain management and disaster response. Counterbalancing these successes are ongoing challenges such as: (1) lack of manpower and expertise in such rural areas, (2) government disaster recovery programs that functionally impede game-changing mitigation, (3) conflicting federal policies, (4) local leadership issues, and (5) conflict between time needed to mitigate versus desire to quickly re-establish normalcy.