GMS Faculty Teams with Jackson State to Focus on Urban River Management

students standing in a circle discussing the project

The following project will be presented to the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture on March 16, 2023.

In August 2022, flooding of the Pearl River in Jackson, Mississippi, resulted in widespread contamination of city water supplies and damage to low-lying areas.  Little surprise to researchers at UC Berkeley and Jackson State University, working together on urban riverfronts in Mississippi and California.  Inequities have long been ‘baked’ into land use and exposure to flood hazards in the US, as illustrated in Jackson, where flood disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. 

This fall, graduate students from Berkeley and Jackson State have been working together to compile the history of floods and governmental actions that have ended up exacerbating flood risk and inequities in Jackson, while cutting residents off from river access.  In their collaborative project Reconnecting Big Rivers, the research team has considered public access to big rivers and flooding issues, conducting research (field, archival, and GIS analyses) on the Mississippi, Pearl, and Sacramento Rivers.  Results to date will be presented on March 16 to the annual meeting of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture in San Antonio.  The graduate Environmental Planning studio also tackled flooding issues in Jackson this spring, developing strategies to set back levees on the Pearl River floodplain and relieve flooding in poor neighborhoods along tributary creeks, which have been largely ignored in current proposals.

The collaboration is led by Professors Berneece Herbert and Talya Thomas of the Dept of Urban & Regional Planning at Jackson State University, and Professors Matt Kondolf, Danielle Rivera, and Anna Brand of the Dept of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at UC Berkeley.

Funding is provided by the Beatrix Farrand Endowment, Riverlab, and Global Metropolitan Studies (UCB), and AAG Bridging the Digital Divide and MARTrec grants (JSU).