Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): coastal resilience

EDF Celebrates the Passing of the NY Bond Act.

In the climate policy world, states and localities are often laboratories of innovation and progress. However, with the devastating impacts of hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves, residents are already experiencing the costly impacts of climate change. To mitigate these costs, EDF supports innovative funding and financing strategies — especially in areas that are most vulnerable to climate impacts. One example of this is EDF’s work on a ballot measure in New York State.

This week, voters passed the historic Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act ballot measure. This comes on the heels of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, ushering in a variety of new flood resilience projects aimed at mitigating these risks to communities.

Read More »

Posted in Climate Resilience, Coasts, ecosystems / Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Iowa’s Watershed Approach provides a model for tackling big challenges on the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River Basin is massive – it covers 40% of the contiguous U.S. and approximately two thirds of that area is farmland. Flooding and water quality are persistent issues across the basin, and experts predict they will only worsen with climate change and increasing intensity of agricultural production.

Iowa, a state in the basin, recently celebrated five years of its Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) – a visionary program that has successfully demonstrated a collaborative strategy to reduce flood risk and improve water quality. With a $97 million dollar award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, local and state leaders have installed more than 800 natural infrastructure projects across the state in the past few years. These projects are the result of collaboration among city officials, upstream farmers and state agencies.

I had the opportunity to travel to Iowa to join a bus tour of watershed projects that reduce flooding and improve water quality. Three elements have made the IWA a success and can help scale this approach to other watersheds across the basin: natural infrastructure, watershed approaches and shared science. Read More »

Posted in Coasts / Also tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed

Virginia’s Legislature made progress on flood resilience in 2022, but significant work remains.

Last month, a Nor’easter left parts of Hampton Roads flooded for days, disrupting transit and damaging property. This situation is a reality for a growing number of Virginians who are experiencing more intense and frequent flooding due to rising sea levels and heavier precipitation.

Without action, coastal flood damages are expected to cost Virginia $5.1 billion annually by 2080, which is why its leaders must use every tool in the toolbox to match the scale of challenges facing people across the Commonwealth.

While Virginia’s General Assembly concluded its 2022 legislative session with several successes, more work is needed – particularly in securing long-term funding for flood resilience, to protect people and natural resources from flood threats now and in the future.

Here are three key takeaways from Virginia’s legislative session relating to flood resilience. Read More »

Posted in Coasts / Also tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Six reasons why wetlands are vital every month of the year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated May as American Wetlands Month, a “time to celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to our Nation’s ecological, economic, and social health.”

Scientists and coastal planners increasingly recognize the important role wetlands play in everything from flood protection to water quality to wildlife habitat to economic impact. At the same time, climate change and other stressors threaten wetlands, and in turn, the people and wildlife that rely on them.

As we close out American Wetlands Month, here are six reasons why one of nature’s richest ecosystems provide value to our lives every month of the year. Read More »

Posted in Coasts / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

Largest ecosystem restoration project in U.S. history provides model for climate adaptation

In the wake of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, President Biden’s administration has turned its sights from rescue to resilience in the newly announced American Jobs Plan that would invest $650 billion in rebuilding infrastructure nationwide. 

This proposed legislation is intended not only to mitigate significant and structural economic challenges, but also to repair and strengthen the systems on which we depend. This includes natural infrastructure to make our communities and ecosystems more climate resilient. 

On our coasts, revitalizing our economy must include building long-term resilience to climate change, sea level rise and hurricanes. In Louisiana, we already know exactly the kind of projects that the American Jobs Plan should support.       Read More »

Posted in ecosystems / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

4 ways to reduce disproportionate flood risk and build resilience for all communities

More Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before, and that risk is growing rapidly as climate change fuels more intense hurricanes and rainfall, and as sea level rise threatens coastal communities across the country.   

However, flood risk is not equally distributed. In this country, we have a flood risk gap that places low-income communities and communities of color at higher risk from flooding. Systemic inequities compound underlying risks and drive disproportionate impacts from climate change to these communities. This gap is visible in many coastal areas, where communities of extreme wealth and poverty exist within a few square miles, yet have unequal protections against storms, flooding and sea level rise.  Read More »

Posted in Coasts / Also tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

How can we reduce losses from coastal storms? Monitor the health of our coasts.

With a rapidly changing climate and more frequent extreme events like floods and droughts, comprehensive environmental monitoring will be increasingly important for coastal planners, farmers and others invested in natural resource management.

Monitoring efforts can cover the whole spectrum of environmental and socioeconomic concerns to provide a holistic picture of ecosystem health over the short- and long-term. This can help to inform future decisions and planning based on the most recent conditions and trends.

However, it can be difficult to coordinate monitoring efforts across political boundaries and agencies, and monitoring is expensive to maintain over time.

Luckily, Louisiana is already a world leader in utilizing collaborative monitoring data to inform coastal restoration and planning efforts. Read More »

Posted in Coasts, ecosystems / Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Read 1 Response

Coastal communities must plan for the future instead of planning from the past

Ecosystem restoration planning has traditionally been based on a desire to restore a system to some historic condition – even as conditions are constantly evolving because of climate change. Rather than planning for the future, we often look back at what the system once was and try to replicate it. But in a rapidly changing world, this model is not sustainable.

A paradigm shift, from restoration projects that solve past problems to those which address future conditions, is necessary if we’re to continue living in coastal areas.

Photo Credit: USGS

Where I work in Louisiana, the Mississippi River Delta is facing an ongoing land loss crisis, due to a host of man-made and natural causes that is further exacerbated by the increasing effects of climate change.

To face this challenge, my Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition colleagues and I, in collaboration with Tulane University, University of New Orleans and The Water Institute of the Gulf, began an effort to improve the future performance of coastal restoration projects. We started by identifying approaches and investment opportunities that support the long-term viability of the ecosystem – and the communities and industries that depend on it.

It’s our hope that this work will help Louisiana and other coastal areas around the country better plan for the future. Read More »

Posted in Coasts / Also tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Following Florence, lessons from Harvey in recovery and resilience

With the impacts of Hurricane Florence continuing to unfold, coastal communities in the Southeast will soon be looking to other coastal areas, like Houston, as models for rebuilding resiliently. By doing so, they can speed their recovery and build back in smart ways – because that’s what resilience is all about.

For Houston, it wasn’t a single event that triggered discussions of resilience. Houston residents have faced a decade of intense storms and floods, with Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Memorial Day Flood of 2015, the Tax Day Flood of 2016 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Together, these repeat catastrophic events sounded the alarm that past approaches to managing flood waters are not sufficient.

Last week, I went to Houston to help decision-makers explore how the city can realize its aim to become more resilient. One year after Harvey, Houston is still learning from its experiences and building upon lessons learned from mega-disasters like Katrina and Sandy to move more rapidly into resilience-building phases. That’s good news, because with more frequent, intense weather events, communities across the nation are going to have to rebuild smarter.

Once communities and officials in the Southeast begin thinking about recovery from Florence and preparing to rebuild, there are four key lessons they can learn from Houston after Harvey that will ultimately help them strengthen the social, economic and environmental fabric of the region. Read More »

Posted in Climate Resilience, Coasts, ecosystems / Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Environmental impact bonds can help make coastal communities safer, sooner. Here’s how.

Last year’s hurricane season was the most destructive disaster season in U.S. history, causing $265 billion in damage and forcing more than one million Americans from their homes.

As climate change causes weather to get more extreme, coastal communities across the country are struggling to find cost-effective solutions to enhance their resiliency to storms and develop new ways to finance that work.

Photo Credit: Karen A. Westphal, Audubon Louisiana

How can we help make coastal communities more resilient more quickly? How can we engage the private sector in coastal resiliency efforts and generate a financial return for investors?

Together with my EDF colleagues and partners, I set out to explore how one innovative financing mechanism – environmental impact bonds – might help. Read More »

Posted in Coasts / Also tagged , , , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses