Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): North Carolina

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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How states can finance coastal resilience before the next disaster

As climate change drives more intense storms, hurricane-related costs in the United States have increased 1,100% since 1980, and the population of counties prone to hurricane damage has increased at least 22% faster than the overall U.S. population has grown.

State governments must prioritize rebuilding better and investing in climate resilience now to avoid the skyrocketing costs of future disasters. Every $1 invested to mitigate a disaster saves $6 in recovery. Read More »

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From Louisiana to New York, coastal leaders come together to build climate resilience

As extreme weather takes a greater toll, states are creating a new government position to confront climate challenges and keep residents safe. Nearly one dozen states have hired Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) in various areas of government, including the governor’s office, state departments of environment or state departments of public safety.

These officers are charged with improving collaboration internally across government and externally with the public — and to have a coordinated approach to securing and spending federal disaster resources.

CROs are often working urgently to respond to previous disasters while also shaping forward-looking strategies to build a more resilient future for their state. With such a high-stress, high-stakes job, it’s essential that these leaders collaborate and learn from one another.

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North Carolina’s Legislature moves toward greater flood protection and climate resilience

Update, July 1, 2020: North Carolina’s Senate and House unanimously passed HB 1087. We thank Rep. Bell, Rep. McGrady and Sen. Newton for their leadership in advancing this important piece of legislation. Gov. Cooper signed HB 1087 on July 1, 2020. EDF staff will be working with Division of Mitigation Services staff and stakeholders to develop the program. Read our statement in response here

Earlier this month, North Carolina released its first Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan to prepare for more intense rain events and flooding. In particular, the plan emphasizes natural infrastructure as a means to reduce flooding and provide other benefits.

On the heels of the plan’s release, North Carolina’s General Assembly is expected to pass a bill that contains a measure to create a faster, more efficient path for investing in projects that reduce flooding, protecting downstream communities while also empowering the private sector to employ more North Carolinians.

Once passed, HB 1087 will go to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature. If signed, the bill would not only help North Carolina implement natural infrastructure projects with greater urgency, but it would also create the nation’s first market for natural infrastructure projects to address flooding.

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North Carolina confronts climate change with forthcoming resilience plan

Update: North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper released the state’s first Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan on June 2, 2020. See our statement in response here

Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Arthur brushed by North Carolina’s Outer Banks two weeks before the official start of hurricane season and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. While damage was minimal, the storm was an urgent reminder of the state’s need to build climate resilience.

As North Carolina recovers from a slate of recent hurricanes, state officials are moving quickly to build resilience ahead of future storms. Gov. Cooper is expected to release the state’s first resilience plan in early June, providing a framework that will help the state move quickly toward a more resilient future. Read More »

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Four ways North Carolina can build resilience year round

Earlier this week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a proclamation recognizing the imperative to think anew about how the state lives with climate change. The governor emphasized the importance of building resilience as North Carolina communities continue to recover from an onslaught of devastating hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

Flooding has been the biggest problem this year, from headline-grabbing events like Hurricane Dorian, to intense, fast-forming thunderstorms like those we experienced in June, when 3 inches of rain fell per hour. In fact, June was the eighth wettest month on record since 1895.

September, however, was among the driest months in a decade, contributing to what experts call a “flash drought.” For farmers, flash droughts are problematic because they can cause crop loss, especially when crops have shallow roots after being planted during a wet month. While farmers were able to harvest some crops this fall, other harvests are at risk from the dry weather.

This pattern of extreme rain combined with flash drought is straining already beleaguered farmers and residents. Read More »

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North Carolina must prepare for sea level rise now

North Carolina’s barrier islands (aka the Outer Banks) received the brunt of Hurricane Dorian’s impact to the U.S. mainland, but the damage could have been a lot worse had the storm not been weakened after ravaging the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane.

With the devastation of Hurricanes Florence, Michael and Matthew still in recent memory, North Carolinians did not need another reminder of the destructive power of hurricanes. However, Dorian highlighted the particular vulnerability of North Carolina’s barrier islands, and the need for us to develop solutions now for how this region confronts sea level rise and more frequent and intense 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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Three takeaways from the largest-ever dataset about fertilizer management in North Carolina

In the face of uncertainty about everything from variable weather to market prices, fertilizer is one variable that farmers can control — but only if they have access to actionable, scientific information about how to select the appropriate application rate and tools.

A new report, Nitrogen management in North Carolina agriculture: Results from five years of on-farm research [PDF], helps fill this need. It provides the most comprehensive dataset ever collected about on-farm nitrogen management practices in North Carolina to identify fertilizer solutions that increase operational resilience, and improve economic and environmental outcomes.

These findings are the result of five years of participatory on-farm research through the North Carolina Farmer Network, a group of crop consultants and nearly 100 farmers across 26 counties in North Carolina’s eastern Coastal Plain.

The network formed through a collaboration between Environmental Defense Fund, North Carolina Farm Bureau, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, and others.

As grain farmers and their advisers gear up for the 2019 growing season, here are three top findings from the network’s research to consider. Read More »

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States are turning to data and interactive maps to help residents confront and manage flood risks

2019 has been an unprecedented year for flooding, even before the start of hurricane season. Despite the number of devastating hurricanes in recent years, a new University of Notre Dame study published in Climatic Change found that most coastal residents do not plan to take preventative action to reduce damages.

In addition to speeding up the recovery process, taking action before disaster strikes can help homeowners reduce damages, save money and even lives. For riverine floods, every dollar spent before a disaster saves $7 in property loss, business interruption and death.

So how can individuals, businesses and the public sector be incentivized to make proactive investments to reduce vulnerability before a disaster strikes? The first step is clearly understanding risks—now and in the future—and having concrete recommendations for how to mitigate them.

In the past, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Rate Maps have been the source for this information; however, these probability-based maps have not resonated with most people as they rely on the obscure “100-year floodplain” concept. Being told you live in an area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding any given year does not inspire action, nor does it reflect the reality of a changing climate.

In recent years, states have stepped up with more robust tools that give residents a clearer depiction of risks and resources for how to reduce them. Three states stand out. Read More »

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