SAGE Baltimore Workshop Description
On April 4, 2016 the Sustainable Adaptive Gradient in the Environment (SAGE) NSF Grant (ICER-1338767)* sponsored a workshop on Coastal Adaptation Planning, Implementation and Policy in connection with the Local Solutions: Eastern Regional Climate Preparedness Conference, Baltimore, MD. The workshop focused on the technical inputs, planning and zoning drivers, potential solutions, policy implications, and framework for future development in coastal adaptation design and implementation. The workshop concluded with questions for the workshop participants including questions about what challenges they faced and what they thought the solutions to these challenges were. SAGE will use the list of challenges and solutions in planning the next workshop.
Christopher Hein, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), College of William and Mary kicked off the workshop discussing his research on the complexities of Holocene coastal evolution. Drivers including wave height, tidal range, sediment movement and availability, sea level rise and storms interacting to produce changes in coastal geography. Hein says we can look at coastal change on a geologic timescale which is very different than looking at how people will adapt to the ecological and geological changes in the next hundred years. In the short term, humans have many ways to manipulate the geology of the coasts including removing dams, moving sediments, adding and restoring marsh and using grey infrastructure such as groins and sea walls.
Everyone in the planning field is asking, “How do we determine vulnerability?” Kirk Bosma, PE, is a Senior Coastal Engineer and Team Leader of the Coastal Sciences, Engineering & Planning team at Woods Hole Group. Bosma realized that most of the maps that planners use when considering climate change show flood areas that are based on historical records. However, our climate future will probably look nothing like our past and as a result, these maps do not reflect the new conditions created by climate change. Bosma and his team believe that hydrodynamic modeling planners can optimize engineering designs and reduce overall project life cycle costs. Habitat restoration, shoreline protection, and planning projects which include grey, green and hybrid infrastructure must all be considered when towns and cities are planning for climate change.
According to Ariana Sutton-Grier Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call and Sandy changed the way the US is talking about resiliency. Sutton-Grier is a research faculty member at the University of Maryland in the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center and is also the Ecosystem Science Adviser for the National Ocean Service at NOAA. Sutton-Grier focused on the benefits of coastal ecosystems. Research has found that coastal habitats or green infrastructure such as salt marshes, coral reefs, oysters, beaches, dunes and mangroves reduce storm damage significantly. Unlike grey infrastructure, green infrastructure can strengthen over time, is self-maintaining and is predicted to keep pace with sea level rise. Unfortunately today 14% of the US coast is classified as “hard.” Sutton-Grier says that more studies are needed to measure the storm benefits of green infrastructure and that there needs to be more design best practices in place for the concept of green infrastructure to become a standard.
The State of Maryland was well represented by Bhaskaran Subramanian who heads the Shoreline Conservation Service for MD Department of Natural Resources. Subramanian talked about the stakeholders (federal, state, local governments, private sector, and citizens) who play a role in the living shoreline restoration projects he helps to administer. Since the late 1960’s Maryland has recognized the importance of its 7,000 miles of shore and as a result the state has several programs in place including a zero-interest loan program to implement shoreline restoration projects for private and public projects and the Living Shorelines Law which is implemented by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Subramanian emphasized the importance of communication and the crucial role that outreach programs, including workshops for stakeholders including shoreline professionals, plays in filling the knowledge gap.
Melissa A. Kenney is an Assistant Research Professor in Environmental Decision Analysis at the University of Maryland, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center. Kenny’s research program broadly addresses how to integrate scientific knowledge and societal values into policy decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. Dr. Kenney spoke about how indicators are reference tools that can be used to regularly update status, rates of change, or trends of a phenomenon using measured data. Indicators can also be indexed to assess or advance scientific understanding, inform decisions, account for actions, assess effectiveness of actions, ultimately determine the sustainability of outcomes. Kenny believes that performance measures are needed in order to determine what is happening today and identify if goals are being achieved.
Kim Penn is the climate coordinator for the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Penn focused on factors that build community and ecosystem resilience capacity and spoke about support for interagency activities related to climate adaptation and green infrastructure. Penn underscored the importance of building capacity for data collection, tools for analysis and partnerships. NOAA is working on strengthening partnerships in order to increase the funding collaborations and information sharing. Questions to Penn focused on how to increase political willpower and what kind of data is needed for resiliency groups. Penn thinks we have the most political will we’ve had in years and she cited multiple reports that were generated by the US government to increase knowledge and principles for stakeholders. However, she believes that data is needed for ecosystem services.
The workshop concluded with a brainstorming session on what challenges the participants were facing on behalf of their organizations and communities and what they believed the solutions were. Challenges included: the difficulty of prioritizing projects and how to decide what time frame to use, funding, educating the public about climate change and raising awareness about how green, grey and hybrid engineering can be used to increase coastal resiliency. Solutions proposed were sensitive to community needs and centered on resiliency as a system approach. Everyone recognized that there were multiple components to any given project and that government policy and state planning and insurance programs were all essential mechanisms for change. Unfortunately, the workshop ran out of time to present the gradient theory. Click here to see the gradient slides Elisabeth Hamin had prepared.
*The Sustainable Adaptive Gradient in the Environment (SAGE) NSF grant was funded to create a network of U.S., Caribbean and European engineers, geoscientists, ecologists, social scientists, planners and policymakers. SAGE promotes a robust interdisciplinary analytic framework for the wide range of possible infrastructure responses to coastal hazards in order for policy-makers to have clearer selection criteria for location-appropriate and climate-adapted sustainable coastal infrastructure policy.