Building Coastal Resilience Through Capital Improvements Planning

Capital improvements often represent the most significant investments made by communities. Coastal communities in particular must plan for not just growth and future development, but also for infrastructure degradation due to sea level rise, extreme weather events, and other climate hazards. And while many coastal communities are facing this reality, the techniques and costs of incorporating adaptation and hazard planning into the capital planning process are unclear.

The MSC Chicago is seen just passing under the Talmadge Memorial Bridge that spans the Savannah River between downtown Savannah and Hutchinson Island. Photo by Flickr user Ron Cogswell.

As capital improvements planning often results in projects that directly impact the built and unbuilt environments, incorporating hazards planning into the capital improvements planning process could greatly enhance a community's resilience to extreme weather and sea level rise. Standardizing and mainstreaming these techniques will likely help many coastal communities struggling with long-term adaptation. Reaching practitioners is vital to this effort.

To further its mission to help bolster the economic and environmental health of coastal communities nationwide, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has funded a project to help communities adapt to and mitigate coastal hazards. Led by and in partnership with the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), the American Planning Association (APA) will work to mainstream a variety of techniques to help practitioners incorporate climate, flood, and hazard data into local and regional capital improvement plans. Both organizations have a longstanding partnership in the realm of hazard mitigation and climate adaptation. With over 57,000 combined members, the techniques and guidance developed as part of this project will be targeted at planners, floodplain managers, and all practitioners directly involved in the creation and updating of capital improvement plans.

The primary goals for the project are to:

  • Identify and develop tools, techniques, and guidance documents that can be used by practitioners involved in the capital improvement process.
  • Improve and enhance community capacity to incorporate data, research, and information related to coastal hazards and extreme weather into capital improvement planning.
  • Implement resilience and adaptation measures in coastal infrastructure and public buildings.
  • Understand and quantify the costs associated with the replacement, protection, or improvement of public buildings and infrastructure when coastal hazards and extreme weather are taken into account.

To achieve these goals, over the next three years ASFPM and APA will:

  • Research and analyze techniques for incorporating information about extreme weather events, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions into local and regional capital improvement plans. This process will rely heavily upon literature reviews and interviews with researchers, practitioners, state and federal agencies, and those communities currently implementing these techniques.
  • Engage with the Toledo-Lucas County metropolitan area and the Savannah-Chatham metropolitan area to pilot and ground-truth these techniques. By working with communities in both the Great Lakes region and on the oceanic coast, we believe these techniques will be broadly replicable for communities nationwide.
  • Develop and deploy a wide array of materials, presentations, and guides to practitioner communities involved in the capital planning process. The dissemination of these materials directly to practitioners will allow for the mainstreaming of the developed techniques and their incorporation into local and state capital improvement plans.

Resources

An annotated bibliography of resources related to the subject matter of this project.

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