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Assessing Flood Risk Along the Ribault River

Jacksonville, Florida

Featured image for the project, Assessing Flood Risk Along the Ribault River

Image by Sharon Kehl Califano from Pixabay

This project seeks to generate detailed predictions about changes to flood risk along the Ribault River in Jacksonville, Florida. The river borders the Ribault neighborhood, a long-standing predominately African American neighborhood that frequently experiences flooding and subsequent public health impacts due to leaking septic tanks, upstream superfund sites, and other hazards. By understanding which areas are at the highest risk of flooding as sea levels rise and the climate changes, Local Initiatives Support Corporation alongside community partners can better advocate for which parcels should receive priority focus from the city for remediation, sewer conversion, or wetland restoration. Additionally, this analysis will help in the planning of a new living shoreline along the Ribault River Reserve Park, an important greenspace that connects the community to the river.


About the Community

The Ribault neighborhood in Jacksonville is bordered to the north by the lower portion of the Ribault River before it flows into the Trout River and subsequently St John’s River. Ribault River’s headwaters are only 7 feet above sea-level and the area’s flat topography, along with its coastal proximity and dense network of waterways, make it highly vulnerable to flooding. Ribault is an urban community of about 3,000 primarily African-American residents.  LISC’s work in Ribault is intersectional and includes a variety of projects across different issue areas, such as housing resiliency and food security.  Environmental concerns are typically outside of LISC’s wheelhouse, but the river is such a key part of this community that they reached out to Thriving Earth Exchange to help develop an environmental project that aligns with their other community priorities. LISC has also been building relationships with other local groups, such as St John’s Riverkeeper, Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation and university programs focused on landscape architecture, oral histories and water quality monitoring, city officials tasked with implementing Jacksonville’s new resiliency plan, and community members through surveys, community meetings, and river clean-up and boating days. Community members are concerned about water quality, flooding, and access to greenspaces and the river itself and hope this project can identify focus areas for resiliency planning.


About the Project

The community would like to develop detailed data about the flood risk along the Ribault River to inform three sets of decisions focused on water quality, land acquisition, infrastructure investment, and park planning.

The first step is to develop a flood risk analysis for the region. This analysis should look at different scenarios for climate change and sea level rise in order to evaluate how the future day to day water level of the river might change and what areas will be inundated at different flood recurrence intervals. This analysis should focus consider compound flooding risks from coastal surges alongside heavy precipitation as appropriate while incorporating other elements of riverine hazard projections, such as potential changes in streamflow, water resource management, river corridor, etc.

Once the potential for flooding along the riverbank has been developed, it should be overlaid with other datapoints to relevant to the decisions at hand. In order to evaluate impact of future flooding on water quality, flood risk should be compared to superfund sites, industrial sites, hazardous waste storage, and septic tank locations. This analysis will help identify priority areas for incinerator ash remediation, septic tank phase out, and other resiliency projects. Flood risk should also be overlaid with a parcel map that shows undeveloped lots. LISC hopes to encourage the city to purchase lots that are at high flood risk to develop wetland parks that increase community access to greenspace while expanding the floodplain and increasing overall neighborhood resiliency to flooding. Finally, special focus should be paid to the flood risk along the shore of the Ribault River Reserve, as this analysis will hopefully inform future designs for a living shoreline at this park. Redesigning this park using the best possible projections and flood science will help ensure community members can enjoy the park and access the river well into the future while learning about climate resiliency.


Timeline and Milestones

Expected milestones will be: identifying necessary data; collecting data; modeling flood risk; overlaying additional geospatial data; drafting of report. Timeframe is dependent on capacity of volunteers.

Project Team

Community Lead

Kristopher Smith headshot

Kristopher Smith is the Community Development Program Officer at LISC. Originally from Jacksonville, Kristopher Smith joined the LISC Jacksonville staff on April 20, 2020. In his role as Community Development Program Officer, Smith oversees LISC’s Jacksonville Urban Core Initiative and its efforts to advance economic growth in urban core neighborhoods. Kristopher brings nearly 20 years of experience in community engagement and development, grantmaking and capacity building to the organization.


Community Science Fellow

Gabe Rosenstein headshot

Gabriel Rosenstein currently works for the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment supporting environmental justice and grassroots grantmaking, with a particular focus on improving the health of California watersheds. He has supported a variety of community environmental and science projects over the years, including evaluating wildfire risk in the Bay Area as part of NASA’s DEVELOP program and working on the ground on an Indigenous-led ecology project on Long Island.


Scientist Wanted

Scientist Role

This project seeks one or more scientists to assist with scoping and execution of this project for its entire duration (6-12 months) in the following roles:

  1. Hydrologist – coastal environments. Help scope the project to ensure it entails a feasible and novel analysis that will meaningfully inform decision making. Identify and acquire necessary data sources related to flood risk assessment especially in Florida or similar coastal environments.
  2. Modeler—GIS. Model flood risk for relevant climate scenarios, and develop analysis of flood risk in relation to community concerns of water quality hazards, infrastructure investments such as the septic tank phase out program and incinerator ash remediation, potential land acquisitions, and a living shoreline project.
  3. Science communicator. Translate model outputs into written analysis and accompanying graphics appropriate for aiding decision makers and educating members of the public. Members of the project team may be able to assist or fulfil this role.


One scientist may be able to fill all roles. Scientist(s) would meet potentially multiple times with the project team on the outset of their involvement to provide input on the scope and detail of the project and then could perform the technical portions of the project largely independently if desired, reporting back to the project team on a semi-regular basis or as necessary. Scientist(s) would be welcome to engage students on this project, provided students receive the appropriate supervision and mentorship required to perform relevant tasks. At minimum, the desired output of this project would be model outputs demonstrating how climate change-drive flood risk intersects with areas of community concerns, but ideally this project would produce written analysis of the model outputs as well as maps and other graphics appropriate both for guiding decision makers and educating members of the public.

Desired Skills and Qualifications (bulleted list):

  • Hydrologist:
    • Expertise in flood risk assessment, especially in Florida or similar coastal environment.
    • Experience gathering relevant data sources for GIS analysis.
  • Modeler:
    • Experience with geospatial analysis, especially related to water resources, climate change, and human factors.
  • Science communicator:
    • Knowledge of and experience creating resources that are valuable to policy and decision makers.
    • Interest in translating technical science into layperson terms.
  • All roles:
    • Interest in climate hazard mitigation.
    • Thoughtful communicator.
    • Values community concerns and lived experience of local stakeholders.
    • Sufficient time and capacity to contribute to the project (at present we do not have a strong sense of how much of a time commitment will be required to complete this project and expect to discuss this with perspective scientists during interviews).
    • Based locally or remote (if remote, interest and capacity to perform site visit preferred).


Interested in volunteering as a scientist? Apply now!