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Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act of 1970

The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act of 1970 (URA) (42 U. S. C. §§ 4621 et seq. (2020); 49 C. F. R. pt. 24 (2020)) is a federal law enacted to provide standard and predictable real property acquisition and relocation expenses for homeowners and tenants of land acquired through eminent domain. URA ensures consistent treatment for people displaced through federal programs or with federal funding. State and local governments can learn and draw from URA when evaluating the amount and types of relocation assistance potentially provided for bought-out homeowners and tenants as a part of comprehensive retreat strategies.

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Annexing and Preparing Higher Ground Receiving Areas in Princeville, North Carolina Through Post-Disaster Recovery Processes

In 2017, the Town of Princeville, North Carolina engaged experts and communities in a long-term, comprehensive planning process to annex a 53-acre parcel of land located outside of the town’s 100-year floodplain to develop a safer, higher ground area where residents, structures, and infrastructure can be relocated. After experiencing flooding impacts from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Princeville was selected as one of six municipalities in North Carolina to receive technical and funding support from the state through the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative. Princeville provides an example for other municipalities either in a pre-or post-disaster context for how to balance the preservation of original townships while dealing with flooding vulnerabilities, while increasing the resiliency of core community assets and services through adaptation actions. As done in Princeville, local governments may consider options for relocating vulnerable residences and community facilities and services, including by annexing new land where sufficient higher ground land within existing municipal boundaries is not available to reallocate critical land uses and maintain local communities, tax bases, and economies.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — City of Austin, Texas: Flood Risk Reduction Buyout Projects

July 15, 2020

The City of Austin, Texas has adopted a model to provide consistent relocation benefits for voluntary home buyouts in the city’s floodplains as a part of its “flood risk reduction projects.” In addition to the cost of a person’s original home, the city will provide homeowners with moving and closing costs, and a replacement housing payment if the cost of a new comparable home (located outside of the city’s 100-year floodplain) is more than the original home. This policy encourages owner participation in the buyout program and helps to minimize the economic and social costs of relocation. The city’s Watershed Protection Department prioritizes buyouts in accordance with a Watershed Protection Master Plan that strategically guides related city actions, including potential buyouts, to reduce the risks associated with erosion, flooding, and poor water quality. A mix of municipal bonds, federal grants, and local funds (primarily through a drainage fee paid by owners of properties based upon impervious surface cover) have been used to fund the buyouts. Austin’s example is noteworthy for its emphasis on implementing buyouts in accordance with a comprehensive flood mitigation program and facilitating transitions for people located in floodplains through relocation assistance. Other jurisdictions considering managed retreat could implement an interdisciplinary buyout approach across different sectors and government agencies (e.g., floodplain and emergency management and housing and community development). .

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of New Jersey: Blue Acres Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

The New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program is a nationally recognized example of a longstanding, state-run buyout program. Blue Acres works closely with municipalities throughout the state to identify privately owned properties that are routinely threatened or flooded due to sea-level rise and more frequent weather events. The program works directly with local governments to prioritize comprehensive buyouts of affected neighborhoods, instead of individual properties, and restores and protects the properties to maximize the flood and cost-reduction benefits for communities and the environment. To accomplish effective state-local coordination, the program has a diversified staff that meets local needs including case workers who work directly with participants in each buyout area, and a financial team that negotiates mortgage forgiveness with banks and other financial lenders on behalf of homeowners. As climate change worsens and makes extreme weather events more common, other states and local governments may increasingly evaluate the potential for buyouts, particularly in coastal jurisdictions. Decisionmakers could consider institutionalizing buyouts as a part of comprehensive climate adaptation and coastal and floodplain management strategies to encourage neighborhoods to relocate to safer, higher ground areas and restore ecosystems to attain flood, natural resources, and other community benefits.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — San Diego, California: ReWild Mission Bay

July 15, 2020

In San Diego, California, the city and various stakeholders are evaluating different land-use and planning alternatives to conserve and restore migrating wetlands in Mission Bay as a part of local decisionmaking processes. To conserve and restore Mission Bay, San Diego Audubon and other partners started an initiative called “ReWild Mission Bay” that evaluated different alternatives for protecting wetlands through a feasibility study. One of the feasibility study’s alternatives aims to relocate Campland on the Bay, an existing RV campground on land owned by the city, inland. By moving Campland on the Bay inland, the city could address wetland migration while providing community resilience and environmental benefits. The alternative to relocate the location for Campland on the Bay, if implemented, would be aligned with and build on other local planning efforts to convert a part of the surrounding Mission Bay Park into a regional amenity that accommodates both public and private uses. In July 2019, the San Diego City Council approved a lease extension and expansion for Campland on the Bay that has delayed any potential implementation of the ReWild Mission Bay wetland alternatives until after the term of the lease expires. The ongoing work in Mission Bay can serve as an example for other coastal jurisdictions addressing the tradeoffs raised in land-use and planning efforts for coastal retreat and the challenges that can arise in balancing competing stakeholder interests to achieve both human and environmental priorities. ReWild Mission Bay also shows how nongovernmental stakeholders can conduct planning processes to help government agencies make decisions about long-term land uses and restoration activities. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: Floodplain Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSS) — a county-wide regional utility in North Carolina — has been administering a Floodplain Buyout Program to relocate vulnerable residents out of floodplains and reduce long-term flood damage. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention and water quality improvement functions and provide other community amenities, like parks and trails. CMSS has purchased more than 400 flood-prone homes and businesses and enabled over 700 families and businesses to relocate to less vulnerable locations outside of the floodplain. CMSS has also supported a number of leaseback arrangements on a case-by-case basis with property owners to increase participation in the buyout program and reduce the county’s property maintenance costs. The program has been funded through a combination of federal and local government sources, with leasebacks also supporting the recapture of some costs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Floodplain Buyout Program is an example of a nationally recognized approach to supporting voluntary retreat in a riverine floodplain. Other local governments could consider adopting a comprehensive buyout program like Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s or individual program elements, like local funding options or leasebacks, to help support voluntary retreat decisions in coastal areas experiencing sea-level rise, impacts from disaster events, and land loss. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Harris County, Texas: Flood Control District Local Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

Harris County, Texas established a voluntary home buyout program through the regional government agency, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), that can serve as an example for other local jurisdictions considering retreat from coastal and riverine flood-prone areas. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention functions. HCFCD has developed an effective communication and outreach strategy to educate the public and encourage program participation. Historically, properties have been acquired with grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance program, Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, and local funding from a dedicated ad valorem property tax (i.e., a tax based on a property’s assessed value). Other state, regional, and local jurisdictions considering managed retreat could implement a similar comprehensive buyout model that operates in both a pre- and post-disaster context to reduce flood risks and engages the community throughout the entire process. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — New York City, New York: Land Acquisition and Flood Buyout Programs

July 15, 2020

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) offers flood mitigation buyouts within the NYC watershed, in cooperation with the state, through a Flood Buyout Program that can serve as a model for other coastal and riverine jurisdictions considering retreat. These buyouts are part of a comprehensive flood hazard mitigation program that relies on scientific studies termed Local Flood Analyses (LFA). LFA enable NYC DEP to identify solutions to reduce flooding, which may involve buyouts, and then to fund and implement recommended projects. NYC DEP’s buyouts are primarily funded by local sewer and water bills and may be supplemented by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Notably, NYC DEP administers a Land Acquisition Program — in addition to its Flood Buyout Program — with a focus on conserving land within the NYC watershed to protect water quality. This dual approach to both buyouts to mitigate flood risk and open space acquisitions to enhance water quality is a unique model that other state and local governments can replicate to achieve co-benefits through land acquisitions. Collectively, NYC’s multiple programs and projects can provide an example for other land-use planners and decisionmakers on how managed retreat through buyouts can be supported through a science-based, comprehensive approach that aims to maximize floodplain hazard mitigation and community resilience. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Long Beach, California: Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration and Land Swap

July 15, 2020

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Oil Consolidation and Restoration Project (project) provides an example of how public-private land swap arrangements can be aligned with environmental restoration and protection plans, and used to advance long-term visions for managed retreat. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Complex, located in Long Beach, California, has faced decades of degradation from human activities and development. Much of this remaining wetlands area is privately owned and used to conduct oil operations. The proposed project would transfer 154 acres of privately owned wetlands to public ownership as part of a land swap arrangement. Specifically, as a part of the land swap, the 154 acres currently used for oil production will be exchanged for five acres of wetlands currently owned by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority. The land swap will facilitate restoration of a major portion of the wetlands via a mitigation bank, increase public access, and reduce the oil production footprint and consolidate operations. The land swap plan also involves a number of environmental and social tradeoffs, however. These considerations can provide lessons and recommendations for other local governments studying land swaps as a legal tool to facilitate retreat in coastal areas. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies

July 15, 2020

This report, produced by the Georgetown Climate Center, features 17 case studies about how states, local governments, and communities across the country are approaching questions about managed retreat. Together, the case studies highlight how different types of legal and policy tools are being considered and implemented across a range of jurisdictions — from urban, suburban, and rural to riverine and coastal — to help support new and ongoing discussions on the subject. These case studies are intended to provide transferable lessons and potential management practices for coastal state and local policymakers evaluating managed retreat as one part of a strategy to adapt to climate change on the coast. The case studies in this report were informed by policymakers, practitioners, and community members leading, engaging in, or participating in the work presented in this report. This report was written to support Georgetown Climate Center’s Managed Retreat Toolkit, which also includes additional case study examples and a deeper exploration of specific legal and policy tools for use by state and local decisionmakers, climate adaptation practitioners, and planners.

Authors or Affiliated Users: Katie Spidalieri, Isabelle Smith

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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