Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): natural infrastructure

Biden’s USDA will need to hit the ground running. Here are 3 top priorities.

No one is more accustomed to walking a tightrope of variable weather and economic fluctuations than the American farmer. However, 2020 has been especially harsh on the farm economy.

From floods and fires to trade wars and a global pandemic, the incoming administration will need to provide a swift lifeline to farmers, ranchers and forestland managers, and to Americans who depend on vital food and nutrition programs. In addition to addressing these immediate challenges, there is also an urgent need to invest in longer-term solutions that build resilience to future risks. Read More »

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Nature-based climate solutions find traction on Capitol Hill. 5 things you need to know.

Forests are the nation’s largest terrestrial carbon sink, offsetting approximately 15% of carbon dioxide emitted in the U.S. each year. Grasslands, wetlands and coastal habitats also store significant amounts of carbon in soils, sediment and vegetation.  

Optimizing that carbon storage will be critical to meeting climate goals, and, with the right financial incentives, can create a new source of rural income.   Read More »

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Florida has plans to address coastal flooding, but they lack natural solutions

Florida is home to pristine beaches, diverse and exotic wildlife, and unparalleled natural landscapes. This environment drives the state’s booming tourism industry — approximately 131 million tourists visited Florida in 2019 and the state’s beaches alone produce an estimated $50 billion in travel and tourism annually.

But flooding from sea level rise and hurricanes increasingly threatens the safety of Florida’s residents, environment and economy.

First Street Foundation estimates over 1.8 million Florida properties are at risk of flooding, with that number increasing to nearly 2.2 million by 2050. Read More »

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Flooding threatened this North Carolina town’s infrastructure, so it turned to nature to help.

Like many cities across the country, Hendersonville, North Carolina, is grappling with how to protect its residents and infrastructure from extreme weather events, which have increased fourfold nationally since 1980.

The western part of the state, where Hendersonville is located, recorded its wettest period on record between 2015-2018 [PDF]. This influx of water accelerated streambank erosion and threatened the city’s critical sewer and drainage infrastructure, which was not built to withstand the new normal of extreme rainfall. Read More »

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More Americans are at risk of flooding than ever before. Here’s how to address this new reality.

Imagine going to bed thinking your home is safe only to wake up and discover that you’re living in the middle of a vulnerable flood zone.

That’s essentially what happened to millions of Americans recently when the research and technology nonprofit First Street Foundation released a report showing how much damage climate-induced flooding could inflict on homes and businesses in the next 30 years. Read More »

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An infrastructure stimulus will make America more resilient, if we get it right

Congress is currently focused on passing a series of stimulus relief bills to support medical professionals, hospitals, individuals and small businesses in an attempt to mitigate the worst effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Policymakers must prioritize human health and safety. But the hope is that, sooner than later, the spread of the virus will slow and Congress will be able to turn its attention to kickstarting the economy.

An infrastructure bill represents a significant bipartisan opportunity to spur job growth and economic activity, while also building resilience for communities at risk from flooding and extreme weather. Read More »

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Experts warn of a more active hurricane season. We need more wetlands, fast.

Hurricane season is just around the corner, but experts are already predicting an above-average season.

Researchers at Colorado State University and meteorologists at Accuweather each released predictions indicating that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could be cause for concern with the potential for up to nine hurricanes and an “above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States.”

Adding additional concern, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are currently extremely warm, creating a recipe for intensifying storms. Read More »

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North Carolina keeps getting clobbered. Here are four strategies for weathering the next storm.

As my fellow North Carolinians prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian last week, many were still reeling from the devastation that Hurricane Florence inflicted upon communities and businesses last year. And that’s to say nothing of the misery that Hurricane Matthew wrought upon residents two years before that – or the smaller flooding events that are now challenging folks with more regularity.

As we work toward recovery, we need to think about how we adjust to this new normal and build resilience in the face of increasingly intense storms and sea level rise.

As Gov. Roy Cooper said when testifying before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee in February, “When storms are becoming more destructive, it’s not enough to pick up the pieces. We must take action to prevent this kind of devastation in the future.” Read More »

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Natural infrastructure is gaining momentum when our country needs it most

(This post was co-authored by Shannon Cunniff and Grace Tucker

2019 has been an unprecedented year for extreme weather, and we’re still in the thick of hurricane season. As disasters have increased, so has the popularity of using nature-based solutions to reduce flood hazard and exposure while also benefiting ecosystems and wildlife.

Along our coasts, healthy natural features – such as mangrove forests, wetlands, reefs and barrier islands – can be used to absorb the shock of storm surge, waves and rising sea levels. Further inland, nature-based features along rivers and in their floodplains can slow and retain water to help protect nearby communities.

In terms of public awareness, funding and policy, natural infrastructure is gaining steam as a critical strategy to help people and property become more resilient in the face of extreme weather. Read More »

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Attention Congress: Investing in nature can help our flood-ravaged nation

Call 2019 the year of the flood.

This spring large swaths of the nation experienced moderate to severe flooding – and the rain isn’t stopping. In California, record rainfall and snow persisted into May. In Louisiana, for the first time ever, the Army Corps of Engineers just released water through its Bonne-Carré spillway twice in a single year to avoid flooding. And hurricane season is just beginning.

Photo Credit: NOAA

The deluge of floods is hardly a coincidence.

Land-use changes and extreme weather driven by climate change are delivering a one-two punch that heightens flood risk. We’ve increased impervious surfaces – think asphalt and concrete – and at the same time we’ve removed wetlands, prairies and forests, which can absorb water and slow runoff. We’ve also built hard infrastructure such as bridges, urban and agriculture drainage networks, and even, ironically, flood “protection” projects that often alter watersheds, floodplains and stream hydrology and increase the severity of floods.

So how do we better protect critical infrastructure and communities in the face of increased flooding? Read More »

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