Building Gulf Coast Resilience - Lessons from the Hurricane Sandy Recovery

This report on Hurricane Sandy Recovery is part of a series of case studies that the Georgetown Climate Center developed to inform efforts to implement innovative restoration projects in the Gulf Coast region after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The synthesis report, Building Gulf Coast Resilience: Opportunities After Deep Water Horizon, and accompanying case studies present lessons for improving coordination among state and federal decisionmakers, expediting environmental review and permitting, and accounting for climate impacts in the design and management of restoration projects. 

This case study, Lessons from the Hurricane Sandy Recovery, details the Federal Coordinating Team approach used to facilitate Hurricane Sandy recovery, which could prove a useful model for federal agencies in the Gulf Coast region. Specifically, this case study explores the work of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up interagency “coordinating teams” to improve coordination across agencies and with grantees, reduce potential permitting or administrative barriers, and generate high-level awareness and support for the Sandy recovery projects. It describes lessons about how the coordinating teams were used to improve early planning, design, and permitting phases of recovery projects, and provides recommendations that can be applied more broadly to other large-scale ecosystem-based restoration projects. Overall, the “coordinating team” model applied during the Sandy recovery provided a useful framework for coordinating across federal leadership and agencies, improving project outcomes, and speeding project delivery.

The case study also explores how the coordinating teams helped to improve the design of, and expedite environmental review and permitting of, innovative recovery projects developed through the Rebuild by Design competition. To illustrate these lessons, the case study uses the example of the Living Breakwaters project, where nature-based approaches will be used to reduce flood risks for vulnerable communities in Staten Island, New York.

The following recommendations for applying the lessons learned from the Hurricane Sandy coordinating team model are provided for states and federal agencies pursuing restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast region:

Interagency Coordination

  • Secure leadership and champions to promote coordination
  • Create venues for interagency coordination
  • Start with individual agency check-ins to set workplans and timelines

Environmental Review and Permitting

  • Seek pre-consultation with federal agencies to avoid regulatory barriers in later stages
  • Use environmental review as a framework to improve project design and outcomes


Other case studies explore the California WaterFix and the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.


Publication Date: August 1, 2018

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  • Best practice
  • Case study

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