Villanova Engineering Professor to Present ASCE Flood Safety Report Revealing Lessons Observed But Not Learned Since Hurricane Katrina

Dr. Robert Traver

At a Sept. 22 press conference in Philadelphia, members of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Task Committee on Flood Safety – led by Committee Chair and Villanova University Civil Engineering Professor Robert Traver, PhD, PE, D.WRE, F.EWRI, F.ASCE, MSCE ’82 – will present findings and recommendations from a comprehensive report on the lessons learned from the failure of the hurricane protection system during Hurricane Katrina. 

Dr. Traver, who also serves as director of the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering and the Urban Storm Water Partnership, will highlight the critical actions that federal, state and local government agencies and the private sector should collaboratively implement to reduce the nation’s exposure and vulnerability to the consequences of river and coastal flooding. He explains, “The challenge to reduce our exposure to flood risk requires us to use all tools at our disposal, and to include our local governments from the beginning.” The recommendations, which are applicable to Philadelphia and the entire nation, include:

  • A consistent definition of flood risk and an accepted framework for how risk should be estimated;
  • Effective and sustainable management of risks posed by floods to life safety, human health, economic activity, cultural heritage and the environment;
  • Collaborative risk sharing and risk management at all levels of government and by all stakeholders;
  • Risk informed communication, policies and funding priorities; and
  • The use of natural processes to mitigate the consequences of flooding.

ASCE visited and interviewed officials in many flood-prone cities across the United States and the Netherlands to elicit feedback about flood risk management practices, then hosted a national flood risk summit in April 2013. The summit provided the opportunity for professionals from multiple disciplines to examine data from numerous sources and post Katrina events, including Super Storm Sandy. In addition, agency officials from St. Louis, Mo., Bay St. Louis, Miss., East St. Louis, Ill., Central Valley, Calif., and the Netherlands completed ASCE’s flood risk questionnaire. The summit discussions formed the basis of the findings and recommendations in this report.

The Sept. 22 press conference will be followed by a Summit on Flood Risk Management in Philadelphia, which will include presentations by the Philadelphia Water Department, Office of Emergency Management, Philadelphia City Planning, and Office of Sustainability. Dr. Traver commends local officials, saying, “It speaks highly of the City of Philadelphia that they are working to reduce our flood risk out of concern for the safety, health and welfare of its residents.”

The summit will conclude on Sept. 23 with closing remarks from Dr. Traver.