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Quileute Tribe of La Push Relocation, Washington State

The federally recognized Quileute Tribe of La Push in northwest Washington is implementing a phased approach to managed retreat in response to climate change impacts of sea-level rise, increased flooding, and storm surge from tsunamis. Specifically, the Tribe is seeking to relocate its school, senior center, government buildings, and future housing above the Tribe’s one-square-mile reservation on the Pacific coast, currently at sea level. The Quileute Tribe’s community engagement processes and planning strategies may provide transferable lessons for other state and local jurisdictions considering similar questions of coastal retreat. 

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Post-Disaster Community Investments in Lumberton Through the North Carolina State Acquisition and Relocation Fund for Buyout Relocation Assistance

2020

Lumberton, North Carolina provides one example of how state funding for relocation assistance can help support local buyouts and community investments in underserved areas. In 2016, the small community of Lumberton was devastated by Hurricane Matthew when the Lumber River flooded over 870 households, as well as a number of businesses. As the city was beginning to recover, only two years later, Lumberton was hit a second time by Hurricane Florence, resulting in damage to over 500 structures. As of 2019, Lumberton is seeking to leverage several grants and funding programs, including North Carolina’s State Acquisition and Relocation Fund (SARF), to rebuild the community and provide residents with relocation assistance to obtain new homes in Lumberton through a state-local partnership. Specifically, with funding from SARF, the local government is considering opportunities to invest in new homes in one existing, but underserved neighborhood of Lumberton that can offer safer homes for bought-out residents. As SARF and the ongoing work in Lumberton demonstrate, state and local governments can support voluntary, post-disaster transitions of people and minimize negative impacts to individuals, communities, and local tax bases from buyouts by reinvesting in underserved areas within their municipalities. 

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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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Level Up Audio Project

May 27, 2020

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IX partnered with the Georgetown Climate Center to present the Level Up Audio Project to support local conversations about hazard risk and resilience, empower communities to advance resilience, strengthen a network of hazard mitigation and climate adaptation professionals, and inspire action. Level Up’s episodes discuss themes including climate change; equity, environmental justice, and social resilience; hazard mitigation; ecosystems and natural resilience; and more.

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Designing new models of energy distribution: Hunts Point Community Microgrid, New York City

The Hunts Point Microgrid Project is an initiative of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR), designed to protect important citywide infrastructure during emergencies that threaten energy distribution and to address critical vulnerabilities for both community and industry. The project integrates energy technologies that minimize power disruption in times of extreme weather in an area that serves as a major food-supply hub located in the Bronx, New York City. Hunts Point was identified as a priority area for climate resilience initiatives after Hurricane Sandy, as the potential impacts of the storm exposed the importance and vulnerability of the food systems infrastructure in the region. The project studied the feasibility of a district cogeneration facility to provide electricity, steam, and refrigeration to local food markets, nearby businesses, and the residential community facilities in the area. In addition to its vulnerability to climate impacts, the Bronx has socioeconomically vulnerable residents - the average household income in the borough is 40% lower than the city average and 34% lower than the national average. The South Bronx, where Hunts Point is located, is 57.1% Hispanic and 39.8% Black. The South Bronx neighborhood is also home to a major wholesale food cooperative located at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, as well as 12,300 residents and one of the City’s larger wastewater treatment plants.

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Hawaii Microgrid Tariff

Hawaii is the first state to begin a utility commission proceeding to create a tariff to pay microgrid owners and streamline the interconnection processes. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission opened a docket and proceeding to “Investigate Establishment of a Microgrid Services Tariff” in response to the passage of Act 200, which directed the Public Utilities Commission to study the establishment of the potential tariff. The Act was passed after extreme weather and volcanic activity on Hawaii Island threatened to cut off several communities or make access extremely difficult. The Act acknowledges that Hawaii is more vulnerable than other states to disruptions in its energy systems due to extreme weather events, and notes that microgrid solutions could provide community-scale power on an emergency basis without connection to the island-wide grid. A microgrid tariff would allow for easier development of customer-sited, islandable systems. Hawaii has existing microgrids on several of its islands that are already helping to make the state’s electric grid more resilient and reliable.  In the wake of Kilauea’s recent eruptions on the island of Hawaii – where transmission lines and distribution equipment have been destroyed by lava – Hawaii Electric Light (HELCo) has also started planning a small microgrid to serve isolated communities and vacation areas threatened by lava encroaching on residential subdivisions.

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City of Minneapolis, Minnesota Neighborhoods 2020: Community Engagement Working Group

December 2018

The City of Minneapolis’ Neighborhoods 2020 initiative is a process to restructure how the City serves and supports neighborhood organizations. As part of this process, Minneapolis formed a Community Engagement Policy Work Group, which created a framework for a Citywide Community Engagement Policy. This framework outlines the processes and stakeholder commitments necessary to improve the City’s engagement with community members, and places an emphasis on a thoughtful, integrated community engagement policy that extends to all members of Minneapolis. 

 

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Water Rising: Equitable Approaches to Urban Flooding

July 2020

In July 2020, the US Water Alliance released the report Water Rising: Equitable Approaches to Urban Flooding. The Report focuses on providing best practices for equitable solutions to flood control and resilience. It proposes five priority actions that policymakers can undertake to achieve this work: using data to identify risks, assets, and community vulnerabilities; committing to ongoing and meaningful community engagement; setting a proactive vision and building strategic alignment with that vision; fully incorporating equity into any resilience planning processes; and emphasizing that investors target frontline communities.

 

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