Thanks everyone and it’s great to be here see so many folks engaged on this important topic.
For this presentation, we’ve got about 45 minutes, and we’re going to split that time between myself and my college, Melissa Gaydos. To begin, I’m going and give you some bigger picture context for the Great Marsh Hurricane Sandy Grant (of which Nate’s work was apart of). Then we’re going to start talking adaptation planning. And you heard during Nate’s presentation and for those here last year you heard from me about all our work to assess community vulnerability. Well today we’re shifting the focus to talk about strategies to reduce the vulnerabilities that we’ve identified. I’m going to lay out the process we used for identify strategies and the process we used to select priority adaptation strategies to recommend. Then I’ll turn it over to Melissa to go into a more detail on the specific types of adaptation strategies we’re pursuing and why some strategies may be better than others.
So with that, I want to set the stage for why we’re here. We have an amazing fairly intact relatively healthy barrier beach and marsh ecosystem that provides a wide variety of ecosystem services to the human communities on the north shore – one of which is risk reduction from storms, flooding and erosion. But as climate-driven threats accelerate and human development encroaches into coastal wetlands and dunes, the ecosystem is less able to effectively buffer these threats – making human communities more vulnerable. This is not a unique challenge to the north shore. Coastal communities throughout the country are both realizing how important coastal wetlands and dunes are for protecting them, but they’re also facing challenges as these coastal habitats disappear.
So just how important are wetlands in reducing flooding and storm damage? We can’t put a dollar value on wetlands and the protection they provide, can we? The answer is yes, we can. According to a recent report, wetlands are estimated to have saved 625 million dollars in flood damage during Hurricane Sandy.
So as folks have begun to better understand the role of coastal ecosystems in buffering storm-driven flooding and erosion, there has been a slow but steady evolution in how we think about reducing coastal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.
Now after Hurricane Sandy, the federal GOVT sped up the process. They created a grants program – seeking to fund projects that would reduce coastal community vulnerability through enhancing natural systems (i.e. the environment). NWF on behalf of the Great Marsh resiliency partnership submitted a proposal to this program, and we were successful. We were awarded 2.9 million dollars to fund a suite of project components that work together synergistically to reduce community vulnerability by enhancing the Great Marsh and barrier beach ecosystems
I know many of you are aware of this project, I’m going to very briefly run through the five major components to this multi-partner grant,
MVPC, Mass Audubon, and BU are leading marsh restoration component where we’re restoring over 325 acres of native salt marsh habitat through invasive speies removal and we’re planting 3 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation to provide wildlife habitat and natural stabilize erosion in the tidal channels.
UNH and DCR are leading an effort to restore high-priority dunes, revegetaing them to reduce erosion and re-nourishing them with sand in areas where they are particularly degraded. I should mention, the dune and marsh restoration component also include extensive outreach and education so folks have a sense of ownership of the work that’s occurring in their communities.
The hydrobarrier assessment: IRWA has inventoried, assessed and prioritized over 1,000 hydro barriers that disrupt the natural flow of water and sediment. Many of these hydro barriers present a major flood risk. In their analysis, tey used both ecological and infrastructure assessments, and they identified a subset of high impact/high risk sites, and are now in the process of creating engineering blueprints for site-specific upgrades or retrofits.
MVPC, BU, and others are leading an effort to create a hydro-dynamic sediment transport and salinity model. I might say this is one of the more boring components of the project to talk about, but it’s also one of the most important. This is going to asses how sediment is moving throughout the marsh and barrier beach ecosystems and what the salinity levels are – this will directly inform future restoration efforts to ensure we’re working in the right areas of the marsh to have the greatest impact.
And then there’s the community resiliency planning effort – of which Nate’s vulnerability work was apart of. In this planning process we’re creating vulnerability assessments and creating a regional adaptation plan.
Obviously each component of this grant could be a presentation by itself, but today, we’re focusing on the community planning effort.
So our community planning process, in a little bit more detail. I know we presented on this last year, but I want to refresh folks memory and provide more information for those who may not be as familiar with this project.
The goal of our work is to provide communities with an array of co-benefit strategies that provide maximum risk reduction benefits while also supporting the health of the marsh and barrier beach ecosystems.
Last year, we developed town-specific climate vulnerability assessments. A lot of work fed into these documents, including all of Nate’s work that he presented on today. The vulnerability assessments cover overall vulnerability as well as highlight specific areas of concern in each community (as identified by local task forces). For these special areas of concern, we did a deeper dive into how these areas are vulnerable and the cumulative consequences if/when these areas are impacted by specific climate-driven threats. Then in year 2, we’re currently in the process of creating an adaptation strategy summary document. It’s going to highlight strategies to reduce the risks identified in the vulnerability assessments. So it’s a pretty linear process: year 1 identify vulnerabilities. Year 2. Identify strategies to reduce the vulnerabilities we identified in year 1.
That adaptation strategy summary document once finalized and reviewed by local representatives and technical experts, will feed into a final report – a regional adaptation plan. That plan will include the vulnerability assessments, the adaptation strategy summary, and what we’re calling an implementation roadmap – basically a chapter in the report laying out suggestions on how to take the plan from words to action.
In addition to this final report, we’re also conducting extensive outreach along the north shore, educating folks on both the risks they face as well as the strategies to reduce those risks , and why certain strategies are perhaps better than others.
Now I could go on for a long time talking more about the vulnerability assessments and the outreach. But I want to get to the million dollar question. How do we make communities along the Great Marsh less vulnerable to climate-driven threats?
So I want to lay out the process we used to answer that question. Step one: We reviewed and synthesized over 50 documents, reports, and plans to identify a full array of possible adaptation strategies. We wanted to know, what are the strategies folks are using elsewhere, in MA, in New England, around the country. So we spent I think close to a month combing through the literature and writing up brief summaries of each strategy we found.
It’s also worth noting that through another project we’re working on, we had completed over 100 interviews with coastal adaptation experts and practitioners who are engaged in similar work in the Mid-Atlantic. New information gleaned from those interviews, we brought to bear here in the great marsh.
Step 2. During the initial synthesis of information, we identified about 90 strategies. We created a catalog of these strategies, listing out details on each one. Using that catalog as a jumping off point, we met with local stakeholders. These were folks serving on a task force as part of this project. We met with them to expand the catalog even further. We went through one by one, looking at priority areas of concern, and we got input from local emergency management officials, planners, and others about the strategies they were thinking about here on a local scale.
By step three, we had over 100 strategies identified.
It was time to hone in on the best strategies disregard the ones that don’t really make sense based on site-specific considerations. We took a first stab at weeding out the strategies that didn’t make sense and we got it down to a more manageable number potential recommendations for each community. But we didn’t’ want to only rely on our expertise – we wanted more input. So we took our list of priority areas of concern and associated strategies and recommendations and we started meeting with outside technical experts to get their input. We met with Horsley Whitten, Chester, Kleinfelder, CZM and asked them from your perspective– what solutions make the most sense and are there additional strategies we should consider? We then incorporated all their input into an initial list of recommended strategies.
I should also mention that more recently we hosted a natural resource technical input meeting – inviting the premier natural resource experts in the area to come together provide input on specific strategies to directly support marsh health. That happened within the past month and we’re still processing the information we collected from that group of experts.
So now, we’re currently in step 4: we’re taking all the great information we collected, all the recommendations and we’re creating a document that summarizes our initial recommendations. We’re highlighting strategies to reduce vulnerability of specific assets in each community, strategies to support natural resources so they provided maximum risk reduction, and we’re thinking about how to provide general recommendations on how to reduce overall community vulnerability – not just specific areas of concern.
That document, once we’re done putting it together, will go out to local stakeholders as well as outside experts so they can provide input and a peer-review type process.
And so here are the steps, from the previous slides all listed together so you can see the linear progression of this process. Now before I turn it over to Melissa Gaydos to talk about the specific strategies we identified, I want to provide folks an opportunity to ask any pressing questions about the overall project or the process I just laid out. You will have an opportunity to ask general questions at the end of the overall presentation – but if you have a burning question, I can answer one or two right now.
Thank you , Taj. For the remainder of our presentation this morning. As Taj outlined in his presentation, through the process of engaging with local stakeholders, Task Force members, and consultants, we’ve narrowed what was originally a very large, broad list of strategies down to a more refined list of recommendations tailored specifically to this region and the identified areas of interest within each of the six communities.
This list features an extensive array of adaptation strategies, from natural resource management and conservation, to emergency management and planning, policies, communication, and education In general the strategies we identified fell primarily into 4 distinct categories: Natural Solutions Nature-Based & Hybrid Strategies Gray Infrastructure And Policy Strategies To give you a flavor of the range and variety of adaptation strategies identified, I want to now provide you with an overview of each of these representative categories, the general advantages and challenges of the various adaptation strategies therein
And in doing so, we’ll also highlight the potential application of each strategy depending on your project goals
Natural Solutions are essentially pre-existing natural features like dunes, beaches, and salt marshes that evolve overtime through a variety of natural processes
To enhance the health and function of such natural features, Natural Solutions also often include various strategies and techniques for protecting, conserving, and restoring such features – such as invasive species removal, and restoring dune vegetation, and ditch remediation techniques to facilitate marsh peat growth
Natural Solutions provide a multitude of benefits, including flood resiliency, wave attenuation, erosion control, water quality, while simultaneously providing valuable habitat for wildlife Through there ability to evolve and adapt over time, Natural Solutions have the potential to offer more resilient, long-term protection and can allow coastal ecosystems to keep pace with SLR They are also relatively more cost effective – especially when you account for the various benefits that can be achieved Challenges associated with Natural Solutions are really dependent on the site itself Depending on the site conditions and characteristics, achievable protection can vary Natural features an also take a while to establish – for example, under natural conditions, the re-establishing of dune vegetation after storm loss can sometimes take up to 10 years They also require space – large, intact coastal ecosystems are most beneficial and the extent that you are able to conserve or establish continuity between coastal and upland habitats is even better
In contrast to Natural Solutions, Nature-Based and/or Hybrid Strategies are created by human design, engineered, and constructed to provide specific services such as coastal risk reduction and other ecosystem services They are essentially design to mimic natural features Examples of Nature-Based solutions include the construction of barrier islands, wetlands, dunes, and living shorelines
Nature-Based solutions are also often a hybrid between natural and nature-based features, where natural materials and non-natural material or synthetic materials (like concrete, mesh or coir logs) are combined to reduce risk and maximize resilience
Similar to Natural Solutions, Nature-Based & Hybrid strategies can offer multiple co-benefits and are relatively cost effective However, unlike Natural Solutions, these types of strategies can create new habitat where it didn’t previously exist and because they do not require as much time to establish, they are often far more effective in high energy areas Challenges associated with Nature-Based & Hybrid strategies are also site-dependent Achievable protection can vary and may be limited by the available space for implementation And in order to keep up with the natural processes acting upon these structures, maintenance may be required in order to sustain the functions andservices for which they were built
Gray infrastructure strategies are generally thought of a the more traditional approach. These are structure-dependent designs, such as revetments, jetties, seawalls, or bulkheads, and do not incorporate any natural or living components
Potential strengths of gray infrastructure strategies are associated with the extensive wealth of design and building expertise, which in comparison to natural and or nature-based features, makes these strategies much easier to implement and therefore we are much more familiar with them Once built, they also start performing immediately However, gray infrastructure solutions have no adaptive capacity and therefore have the potential to weaken over time They also result in loss of habitat and can be expensive both upfront and over time.
There are also a variety of policy mechanisms that can be implemented to address climate adaptation, including freeboard incentives that encourage development above and beyond local base flood elevations, zoning and overlay zones, transfer development credits, and climate-smart development Now realizing that laws are different state to state, we are specifically looking at policy strategies that are applicable to Massachusetts and because community ordinances and policies need to be aligned with state policies, we’ve worked with CZM to ensure that identified policy recommendations will be consistent with MA law
Speaking very broadly, policy strategies can offer a variety of co-benefits and have the potential to offer long-term protection. Statewide regulations and planning guidance can also encourage consistency across adaptation planning at the local level, which can help to promote a stronger systems approach vs. project approach In terms of weakness, they require going through the legislative process, which can be timely and complex They can also lead to legal challenges regarding property rights for example And in order to be successful, communities really need to be on board and compliant – which can certainly be a challenge
Before we take a break, I want to just go over some key-take home messages here, specifically for avoiding maladaptation Mainly that there is no silver bullet – no single adaptation measure will address all the risks facing coastal ecosystems and communities And adaptation projects are entirely site specific – it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the natural processes that act upon a certain site in order to determine which solution would be most appropriate where In order for solutions to be sustainable, it’s important to take a more holistic systems approach versus piecemeal projects here and there that don’t collectively lend themselves to the greater system And whether it’s natural solutions, nature-based strategies, or gray infrastructure – adaptive management is going to be required at some point
For those of you who are interested, we’ve summarized and condensed this overview of climate adaptation strategies into a 1-page handout shown here. We have printed copies available and welcome everyone to take a hand-out before leaving today.
Great Marsh Symposium 2016_ NWF
Great Marsh Symposium
November 17, 2016
Great Marsh Hurricane Sandy Resiliency Project
Community Planning Component
Adaptation Planning Process
Adaptation Strategies for the Great Marsh Region
Nature & Nature-based Strategies
Summary of What’s Next
A Healthy Ecosystem Under Threat
Photo credit: Abigail Manzi
uploaded to MyCoast
Wetlands Reduce Flooding?
Coastal wetlands are
estimated to have saved
$625 million in flood
damages during Hurricane
- COASTAL WETLANDS AND FLOOD
DAMAGE REDUCTION Using Risk Industry-based
Models to Assess Natural Defenses in the Northeastern
Holistic Coastal Resiliency Enhancement
&Community Risk Reduction in the Great Marsh
Community Resiliency Planning
1. Develop community climate
2. Conduct comprehensive
public outreach & engagement
3. Publish an Implementation
Roadmap & Climate
Project Area: Salisbury, Newbury, Newburyport, Essex, Ipswich,
Reviewed and synthesized
over 50 documents
Identified a full array of
Step 2: Expand the list of strategies through
Adaptation Catalog reviewed
by stakeholders and local
Identified top-strategies for
assets in each community
Step 4: Create Detailed Adaptation
Strategy Summary Document
To include strategies that reduce vulnerability of…
Summarize range of
to reduce vulnerability
of top-tier assets
Expand list of
and tailor to site-
summary based on
Design & build expertise
Ready-to-go on day 1
Limited-No adaptive capacity
Weakens over time
Causes habitat loss
Promotes systems approach
Requires legislative process
Can lead to legal challenges
Requires community buy-in