EPA Community Resilience Pilot Project Wilmington, North Carolina

This pilot project, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), identifies potential risks from sea level rise to the water and wastewater infrastructure in coastal communities of North Carolina, and provides potential adaptation measures to reduce the risks to existing assets as well as future service areas. The City of Wilmington in partnership with New Hanover County and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), requested assistance from USEPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities to help identify adaptation strategies that could help to reduce the vulnerability of water and wastewater infrastructure to potential SLR and more intense storms.

There were two primary steps completed as part of this pilot project, a vulnerability assessment and the identification of adaptation strategies. The vulnerability assessment focused on the direct physical effects of SLR and storm surge to CFPUA’s water and wastewater system infrastructure, for the planning period of 2012 through 2100.  The assessment determined the potential for major assets (treatment facilities, pump stations, pipelines, manholes, and water supply wells) to be impacted by SLR, and the resulting consequences of the impact.

A suite of 54 adaptation strategies were identified for the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, and CFPUA to select from - to provide a range of strategies that can be employed to increase resilience knowing that each organization has its own unique operating and political contexts. Each strategy is described in the report along with the relative cost estimated in low, medium, and high ratings; and whether or not it is considered a “No Regrets” strategy.

The identified adaptation strategies include the following categories:

• Infrastructure Strategies - Strategies that are focused on the reduction of risks related to SLR for existing and future water and wastewater assets

• Land Use and Planning Strategies - This strategy grouping included two sub-types:

Planning efforts or studies to help guide and inform the decisions related to future land use, capital project implementation and the adaptation to SLR

Regulatory/Incentive tools that can be used to guide development in the future to minimize risks related to SLR

Throughout the course of this project a number of key take-aways were identified also that can provide valuable insights for other communities considering an adaptive planning effort for potential SLR impacts on their water and/or wastewater system.

The key take-aways described in further detail in the report are:

There must be a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the planning effort, as well as a plan for dealing explicitly with uncertainty.

A collaborative, stakeholder involvement process is essential.

Well managed and maintained geographic information system (GIS) data provide a solid foundation for spatial planning efforts related to SLR.

Asset management program data can be beneficially leveraged to support vulnerability assessments.

Existing SLR scenario modeling, developed by NCDEM, allows for the quick definition of the extent of SLR implications.

A prioritization framework is a valuable tool to identify priority adaptation strategies that are clearly linked to an organization’s values, goals, and objectives.

A facilitative leader with technical understanding of adaptive planning and training in decision support techniques is valuable to guide the planning process to high-quality decisions.




Publication Date: February 2013

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  • Assessment

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