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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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Rise to Resilience - Our Communities Our Future: Policies and Investments for a Climate-Resilient New York and New Jersey

July 2020

The Rise to Resilience Report (R2R), developed in May 2020 by the Waterfront Alliance, provides “actionable recommendations” for policymakers at federal, state, and local levels to create more flood-resilient communities in New York and New Jersey in a transparent and equitable manner. The report establishes a vision for a climate-resilient New York and New Jersey: “A resilient future is well-managed and funded in a manner that is transparent, just and green.”

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Resilient Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Resilient Baton Rouge is a program designed to increase local community capacity in the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana to manage mental and behavioral health in flood-prone parts of the region. By engaging local leaders and healthcare providers, the program has been able to focus on not only delivering mental health services to residents displaced by floodwaters, but also to engage community members in a longer-term process to strengthen both the local communities themselves but also the plans to increase resilience in the region. By deeply engaging affected residents and stakeholders, the plans for resilience broadly are more responsive and targeted to those most affected by the floods. The program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with fiscal sponsorship from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

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Million Trees Miami - Miami-Dade County, Florida

Miami-Dade County, Florida’s Million Trees Miami initiative aims to plant 1 million trees in lower-income communities with insufficient tree canopy in order to alleviate heat stress in the county. This initiative stems from the County’s 2006 Street Tree Master Plan, which set a goal to achieve 30% tree canopy in Miami-Dade by 2020. Neat Streets Miami, a multi-jurisdictional County Board, is working to implement this goal through the Million Trees Miami initiative. Through a 2016 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, the County determined that lower-income areas, including predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods, had significantly less tree canopy than their wealthier counterparts. As a result, the County is prioritizing tree planting in its most impoverished and low-canopy areas through initiatives such as the Street Tree Matching Grant. Increased tree canopy cover in communities provides many important adaptation benefits, including protection from flooding, urban heat island mitigation, and improved water and air quality. 

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Tiered Assistance Program

2017

The City of Philadelphia created the Tiered Assistance Program (TAP) in 2017 in order to address water affordability for low income communities. In Philadelphia, water affordability is an issue that affects a large number of families - between April 2012 and January 2018, 40% of households either had unpaid bills or some other sort of water debt. To address this issue, the Philadelphia Water Department implemented TAP, a program that allows customers to pay water bills at a percent of their income - this payment is capped at 3%. Through this program’s fixed rates, Philadelphians who are struggling to pay their water bill can budget more accurately and access more affordable water, which is predicted to result in increased payment rates and reduced water debts.

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