Iowa Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Report – Findings Related to Infrastructure

The Iowa Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience Report identifies barriers to and incentives for incorporating climate change information into local hazard mitigation and comprehensive planning processes, in order to improve community resilience to climate impacts through coordinated planning, hazard assessment, and infrastructure investment decision-making. The report presents the findings of a pilot project between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Iowa stakeholders, developed through a series of meetings and workshops. The findings are intended to inform federal agencies whose programs influence local planning, local planners seeking to include climate data in community planning, and scientists whose research may be used to inform local planning efforts.

The pilot project resulted in nine primary findings, several of which relate to transportation infrastructure:

  • Finding 1: “Local governments are at the forefront of adapting to climate change.” Local communities make decisions about land use and built and natural infrastructure, often based on incentives or disincentives from state and federal government, that influence the community’s resilience. Local governments are well positioned to apply the best available information about their own future conditions, including information about transportation demands.
  • Finding 2: “Land use is a primary determinant of community and regional climate change adaptation capacity.” Climate resilience can be incorporated into local land use policy and planning processes, such as through investments in and siting decisions for transportation infrastructure. State smart growth legislation, such as Iowa’s smart planning legislation and planning principles, can help communities put in place local land use policies that include climate change adaptation considerations.
  • Finding 3: “Climate change data must be formatted and distributed in a way that is accessible and usable by state and local planners.” Incorporation of climate information into hazard mitigation plans requires planners to apply climate data to inventories of infrastructure and natural resources to determine hazard risks and potential losses. The use of climate data may vary depending on the community’s needs, and local planners may have limited resources, so climate change projections translated to regional or local scales should be accessible at minimal cost.
  • Finding 6: “Communities need to integrate planning processes, specifically hazard mitigation and comprehensive land use planning.” Hazard mitigation planning goals can be supported through alignment with local planning processes for infrastructure investment and land use. The report suggests as a next step following the pilot project the development of a list of communities to serve as examples for how to integrate hazard mitigation and planning, and recommends the use of a guide developed by the American Planning Association (APA) and FEMA, Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning, as a starting point.
  • Finding 9: “Investment decisions should take a regional perspective and be integrated across infrastructure types and sectors to realize co-benefits.” Communities can better leverage resources by coordinating on multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plans or other regional planning for infrastructure investments or land use decisions.

Iowa has experienced more severe and frequent flooding in recent years, causing state and local planners to seek ways to make Iowa communities more resilient to flooding and other future climate conditions. Following historic flooding in 2008, EPA and FEMA partnered to provide technical assistance to impacted communities, and entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to continue a collaborative effort to incorporate smart growth approaches into hazard mitigation planning. Subsequently, EPA initiated this pilot project to convene Iowa local governments and other stakeholders through a series of meetings and workshops, with the goal of identifying ways to incorporate consideration of climate change into hazard mitigation planning and comprehensive planning.

Stage 1 of the pilot project examined how climate change data should be considered in risk assessments and the implications this information may have for local hazard mitigation and comprehensive planning. Although the pilot found a lack of comprehensive local climate projections for Iowa communities, it identified substantial existing information about how future climate conditions may impact Iowa generally. Participants noted that in order to incorporate climate change data into community planning, large scale climate data must be translated to regional and local projections.

Stage 2 of the pilot focused on identifying opportunities to incorporate adaptation solutions into different aspects of planning, emphasizing the importance of coordinating across agencies and among federal, state, and local governments to achieve the greatest benefits. The overarching recommendation from the pilot project was for federal agencies, states, and local jurisdictions to coordinate in developing programs that incentivize the incorporation of climate change information into risk assessment and encourage the integration of hazard mitigation planning and comprehensive planning. The pilot also resulted in nine specific findings, intended to inform: federal and state agencies that operate programs which impact local planning; scientists and other academics whose research might be applied to local decision-making; and local communities seeking to become more resilient.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on October 30, 2015.


Publication Date: 2011

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