The social geometry of collaborative flood risk management: a hydrosocial case study of Tillamook County, Oregon

Abstract: Coastal and riparian flooding are costly and disruptive natural hazards and already a regular part of life in some areas of the USA. Flooding events caused by sea-level rise and climate change are expected to increase in frequency and severity in the future, creating social, ecological, and economic problems at local, city, state, and federal levels. It is clear that normative, infrastructure-oriented, and strictly hydrological solutions to flooding have not appropriately met these challenges, nor have they adequately addressed relevant socio-political factors that shape hydrological processes.

Using the case study of Tillamook County, this study draws upon qualitative interview data to identify and explain social factors that have influenced the outcome of a collaborative, socially engaged flood management project. These include:

  • previous flood experience
  • emotions and feelings
  • interests and concerns
  • preferred management strategies
  • barriers to community-scientific engagement
  • perceptions of a mediation process

This situation is further explored within the framework of social geometry, which is used to explain changes in social position and relationships through an interactive, collaborative process. In this case, mediation is shown to decrease both relational space and differences in status between the two primary actor groups, leading to mutually agreeable outcomes but not without dispute. Flood managers and researchers may find this case study useful when analyzing qualitative data related to flood risk management, and/or planning flood management strategies, particularly in disaster-prone regions.

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Haeffner, Melissa; Hellman,Dana
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Natural Hazards, July 1 2020, © Springer Nature B.V. 2020 (published online)
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23 pages