The historic June 13th flood on the Yellowstone has a lot of us thinking about what will happen when the
next major flood event hits Park County. I imagine the next time the Yellowstone lets loose, recovery
will look a lot like it has in the past, with the community pulling together to help those who were
impacted. Generous donations will be made and hard earned tax dollars will go towards the cleanup
and recovery effort.
What if, instead of scrambling to respond after the fact, our community decided to proactively increase
our resilience to future flood events that will reduce damage to life, property, infrastructure, and the
river? Flood resilience is the idea of minimizing future risk and cost by ensuring the river has enough
room to move and adjust without damaging homes and critical infrastructure. Actions that improve
flood resilience include avoiding development along the river’s banks and floodplain; avoiding the use of
rock riprap to armor and lock the river’s banks into place; and maintaining and restoring the river’s
access to its floodplain where floodwater can spread out and dissipate energy.
The opposite of resilience is vulnerability. In Park County, our vulnerability to future Yellowstone floods
will increase if we continue to build along the river’s banks and floodplain; and if we constrain the river
to its main channel with buildings, roads and hardened bank treatments like rock riprap.