Coastal Resilience Blog

News and perspectives from the DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence at UNC-Chapel Hill

Author: Josh Kastrinsky (page 1 of 3)

The Links: August 2017

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

To read about Center experts discussing Hurricane Harvey, visit our Hurricane Harvey page. To read additional Hurricane Matthew recovery news, visit our Hurricane Matthew page.

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City of Norfolk adopts principles of Resilience Scorecard project

By Jaimie Hicks Masterson, Texas A&M University

Jaimie Hicks Masterson is Program Manager for Texas Target Communities at Texas A&M University and a researcher on the Coastal Resilience Center project “Local Planning Networks and Neighborhood Vulnerability Indicators,” led by Principal Investigator Dr. Phil Berke.

 

The City of Norfolk (Va.), one of two pilot communities working with researchers from a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project, has begun formally adopting the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard at the center of the project.

Project researchers been working with Norfolk for a year to validate and test the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard. There are two reasons Norfolk conducted the evaluation: Their exposure and their leadership.

Composite policy scores for Norfolk, Va., based on the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard developed through a project led by Coastal Resilience Center PI Dr. Phil Berke.

Composite policy scores for Norfolk, Va., based on the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard developed through a project led by Coastal Resilience Center PI Dr. Phil Berke.

Norfolk is located along a peninsula along the east coast of the state, an area known as the Hampton Roads region or Tidewater area. Norfolk has 144 miles of shoreline. Since 1972, they’ve had several federal disaster declarations including, two tropical storms and four hurricanes.  Since 1927, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recorded sea level, and Norfolk has experienced 15 inches of sea level rise since that time, the largest recorded on the East Coast. In fact, all census tracts will be affected in some way due to sea level rise by 2100. Today they have regular high-tide flooding.

It’s not just about exposure, but the people and places vulnerable to that exposure. There are 243,000 people in Norfolk at 4,500 people per square mile, a relatively high density. There are 120,000 civilian jobs, the world’s largest naval base and one of the country’s largest ports, the Port of Virginia.

The city council and mayor want to be a “leader in sea level rise” and they have a planning director thinking of innovative solutions. The Commonwealth of Virginia applied for and won the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resiliency Competition, receiving $120 million. They work closely with the areas’ military bases, and are currently developing a plan for working with the cities in the region. Norfolk was one of the first Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities. Because of that, they hired resilience coordinators and developed the Vision 2100 document, with a significant community engagement effort identified areas in the community that are vulnerable (see map).

These are the circumstances they find themselves in, but there are still more challenges. We continue to see three large problems which cities face:

1) Cities have a “plethora of plans problem” – they are swimming in plans. A catalyst of the project was when the research team looked at plans in Highlands, N.J., (with roughly 5,000 residents). Their hazard mitigation plan called for acquisitions and buyouts in an area along the coast. In the very same location, the comprehensive plan set goals and policies for economic development and mixed-use developments. Even communities with 10,000 people have at least four plans. When we see larger cities like Norfolk with 17 plans, it is unlikely to see a coordinated effort, particularly toward resilience.

2) Cities often have no collaborative process to understand how the various policies within plans are pulling in different directions.

3) Cities usually have no spatial understanding of how policies effect areas of a community, let alone their effect on hazard resilience.

In observing the pilot communities, the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard facilitates:

  • Insight on the impacts of policies in regards to flood resilience. For example, a policy within a plan might say, “Encourage higher-density multifamily development in pedestrian-oriented urban areas with access to transit, a broad range of services and amenities and access to employment.” While this is a policy that many planners strive for, if it is in a flood hazard zone, unfortunately, it is actively increasing vulnerabilities. In Norfolk, they had not done such a comprehensive evaluation of policies. It was also an opportunity to see how different plans stacked up.
  • Insight on the spatiality of policies and the impacts on specific areas. For example, a policy within a plan might say, “Strengthen controls on development within flood-prone and wetland areas by improving existing ordinances.” We can map the flood-prone and wetland areas, and most policies are inherently spatial. Because of this, we can see the stack of policies in a planning district. Norfolk hadn’t thought spatially about their policies before and were very excited to try the Scorecard, especially because of how spatial their Vision 2100 planning document, which identifies areas within the community to investment structural mitigation, areas to retreat, and areas for more dense development.
From right, Dr. Phil Berke, Jaimie Masterson, Stephen Cauffman and Joel Max discuss "A Guidebook + A Scorecard = An Integrative Framework for Community Resilience" at the Natural Hazards Workshop in Boulder, Colo., in July. Photo by Dr. Walter Peacock.

From right, Dr. Phil Berke, Jaimie Masterson, Stephen Cauffman and Joel Max discuss “A Guidebook + A Scorecard = An Integrative Framework for Community Resilience” at the Natural Hazards Workshop in Boulder, Colo., in July. Photo by Dr. Walter Peacock.

To reveal incongruities among community plans, the score itself is important. It allows you to map and visualize incongruities, but the real value of the scorecard comes from the conversations had during the process. Whether scores are positive, negative or neutral, cities are able to have better conversations, make better decisions and therefore better investments. This collaborative process allows cities to become self-aware regarding their overall network of plans and the integration of the policies for a particular district.

Within Norfolk, despite very good scores, the tool revealed weaknesses and inconsistencies throughout the plans. For example, the location criteria for community facilities within the comprehensive plan did not include factoring resiliency metrics, but instead only focused on accessibility to populations and other public uses. Additionally, Norfolk planning staff indicated they had not previously evaluated the hazard mitigation plan and the Scorecard provided a methodical tool. Now they are making a variety of “text amendments to better incorporate the actions aimed at mitigation and resilience as outlined” in the hazard mitigation plan across other planning documents. The report said that Norfolk’s actions were “far too one-dimensional with little specificity or policy implementation tools identified,” particularly within the hazard mitigation plan that did not specify which “appropriate strategies to mitigate the impact of flooding to existing flood-prone structures.” Finally, the Scorecard revealed the quantity of policies focused on vulnerability by district. The city stated they see now that they should include additional policies for other vulnerable planning districts.

Going forward, the research team will develop physical vulnerability and social vulnerability maps as a way to offer additional insight for targeting “hotspots” within the community.

The Links: July 2017

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

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CRC in the news:

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The Links: June 2017

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

Website news/blog posts:

CRC in the news:

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UPRM coastal conference focuses on infrastructure resilience

Attendees of the March 8-9, 2017, coastal conference at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. Photo by Dr. Ismael Pagan-Trinidad.

Attendees of the March 8-9, 2017, coastal conference at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. Photo by Prof. Ismael Pagán-Trinidad.

On March 8-9, 2017, The University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) hosted a conference, “Lessons Learned – Resilience of Coastal Infrastructure.” The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Association of Professional Engineers and Surveyors in Puerto Rico (CIAPR) in San Juan. It was hosted by Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) Principal Investigator Prof. Ismael Pagán-Trinidad and co-PI Dr. Ricardo López, who lead the CRC project “Education for Improving Resiliency of Coastal Infrastructure.”

The list of 26 presenters included researchers from the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research & Development Center (including Lab Director José Sánchez); administrators from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER); researchers from UPRM Civil Engineering, Marine Sciences, CARICOOS, PR Sea Grant Program, Material Science and Engineering departments; and from CIAPR. More than 100 attendees from government agencies, private organizations, researchers and students participated over the two-day event.

Co-organizers included the Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center Coastal Hydraulic Laboratory, CIAPR, DNER, the Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CariCOOS) and UPRM.

Highlights included: Continue reading

CRC researcher presents work to Congressional office

Dr. Austin Becker

Dr. Austin Becker

Dr. Austin Becker, a co-PI on a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project at the University of Rhode Island on a project led by Dr. James Opaluch, presented information on his DHS-funded work to the office of Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-RI) on June 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Becker’s presentation, “Coastal infrastructure resilience to extreme events: Geoscience in planning, design and construction,” was part of the Geoscience and the U.S. Economy Briefing Series. The briefing highlighted critical applications of geoscience information in the development and maintenance of necessary infrastructure in the United States.

The presentation describes how geo and ocean science is used to plan for the impacts of severe weather on the maritime transportation system, which accounts for 99 percent of U.S. overseas trade.

In February, Dr. Becker, a professor of marine affairs at the University of Rhode Island, was named a Sloan Research Fellow in Ocean Sciences by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, one of the most prestigious fellowships available to early-career scientists in the United States. The two-year fellowship is awarded to stimulate fundamental research by scholars of outstanding promise in a variety of disciplines.

Dr. Becker’s CRC project with Dr. Opaluch, “Overcoming Barriers to Motivate Community Action to Enhance Resilience,” aims to improve the resiliency of communities by providing better information on the barriers people face to adapting to coastal storm hazards.

Read more about the briefing at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership blog.

The Links: May 2017

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

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CRC in the news:

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U.S. Virgin Islands addresses climate change adaptation challenges

On Feb. 15-16, 2017, Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) Director Dr. Gavin Smith was among a group of national experts on climate adaptation and resilience brought to the

Participants at a two-day workshop on preparing for earthquakes, flooding, sea-level rise and other hazards U.S. Virgin Islands was organized by the Governors’ Institute on Community Design and included members of the U.S. Virgin Islands Climate Change Council and other stakeholders. Photo by Dr. Wayne Archibald.

Participants at a two-day workshop on preparing for earthquakes, flooding, sea-level rise and other hazards U.S. Virgin Islands was organized by the Governors’ Institute on Community Design and included members of the U.S. Virgin Islands Climate Change Council and other stakeholders.
Photo by Dr. Wayne Archibald.

U.S. Virgin Islands for a two-day workshop on preparing for earthquakes, flooding, sea-level rise and other hazards. The two-day workshop, which was organized by the Governors’ Institute on Community Design (GICD), included members of the U.S. Virgin Islands Climate Change Council and other stakeholders.

During the workshop, participants heard presentations on how the Virgin Islands could become more resilient to hazards such as hurricanes and associated issues such as erosion and sea-level rise. Participants on the GICD team heard from the Council about the unique issues facing the Virgin Islands and community priorities.

The GICD is a national, nonpartisan program that assists governors in their efforts to support thriving, well-designed urban, suburban and rural communities. It has helped more than 30 state executive teams make choices to enhance communities through use of policy expertise, drawing from leading practitioners in fields such as land use, design, transportation, economic development, natural hazards resilience and regional planning. Continue reading

The Links: April 2017

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

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CRC in the news:

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NC students address recovery in Hurricane Matthew-affected communities during DesignWeek

Kinston DW 2

During DesignWeek in January 2017, students viewed buyout properties in Kinston that flooded during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Photo by Darien Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

With many communities in the state still in the early stages of recovery from last fall’s Hurricane Matthew, students from North Carolina universities came together to assess the best ways for some of the affected communities to rebuild. In mid-January, the North Carolina State University College of Design held its first DesignWeek, in which students developed designs that could help three eastern North Carolina communities adapt to future flooding events.

About 70 students – from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP), along with those from N.C. State – worked in teams assigned to one of three rural communities: Windsor, Greenville or Kinston. Each school’s faculty, along with industry representatives and community leaders, helped students research and create designs that mitigate flood damage and improve resiliency in the towns.

Several of the students are enrolled in courses that are part of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education project at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Open space, greenway connections in Kinston

Darien Williams

Darien Williams

Darien Williams, a first-year graduate student in DCRP at UNC-CH and a Department of Homeland Security Science & Engineering Workforce Development Fellow with the CRC , said his Kinston team approached the challenge of DesignWeek with trepidation.

“None of us are from eastern North Carolina, only a few among us had experience there,” Williams said. “Before envisioning what we could come up with, we dedicated our time to understanding what was needed and being asked for. The first days of DesignWeek were spent simply talking, researching and organizing information: What was Kinston’s demographic makeup? What has been tried there before? What sorts of questions should we ask residents?” Continue reading

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