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Summary of State Agency Action

In 2015, the Climate Framework for Delaware (“the 2015 Framework” or “Framework”) was finalized. It includes approximately 190 discrete goals related to climate change adaptation. These goals cover the following sectors: agriculture, biodiversity, coasts and ocean, forestry, infrastructure, public health, and water. This page describes some of the progress Delaware state agencies are making related to goals in each of these sectors.

Agriculture

Agricultural goals included in the Framework call on the state’s Department of Agriculture to take actions to evaluate and educate farmers and natural resource managers about climate impacts, such as increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation that will continue to impact these sectors.

To implement these goals, the state is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the Northeast Climate Hub, one of 10 regional “hubs” across the nation that provide farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with tools, strategies, and technical support to adapt to climate change. For example, the state’s land grant universities are working with other members of the hub to build agricultural resiliency by developing resources to help farmers and land managers make climate-informed decisions. Delaware State University co-hosted a 2018 meeting, which highlighted research including a study of climate resilient crops for Delaware’s changing environment and a unique online educational tool, “As If You Were There,” developed with support from the University of Delaware, that educates producers about best management practices through virtual field tours.

Biodiversity

The Framework’s goals related to biodiversity include incorporating future climate impacts, such as rising seas and the extinction and migration of species, into agency management and stewardship actions for government-owned land; restoring coastal habitats and wetlands vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding, and invasive species; establishing new, native plant habitats; and minimizing the use of pesticides throughout the state to benefit pollinator species, including bees.

To implement these goals, Delaware included an assessment of potential climate change impacts to species and critical habitats in its 2015 state Wildlife Action Plan. The plan also provides recommendations for improving wildlife management over its 10-year timeframe, including additional planning activities and research needs. In 2015, the Delaware Departments of Agriculture, through its Forest Service, and Natural Resources and Environmental Control released a Delaware Wetland Management Plan: A Guiding Document for Prioritizing Wetland Research, Education, and Conservation. Under Goal C, the plan identifies scientific, research, and planning actions the state will undertake through 2020 to better understand and help wetlands adapt — both in place and by migrating inland — to climate threats like sea-level rise and changing temperatures and precipitation. To implement this goal, the state will, among other things, identify and seek to preserve areas for potential wetland migration. The Delaware Department of Agriculture is exploring potential economically valuable uses of native plants and offering funding to grow pollinator habitats through its Managed Pollinator Protection Plan to incentivize the conservation and restoration of habitat and wildlife corridors.

 

Coasts & Oceans

Goals related to coastal adaptation include updating management practices to address sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion; incorporating climate change into research, monitoring, and management decisions at Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve; providing technical and financial assistance to municipalities to plan for and implement appropriate climate adaptation measures; and incorporating rising seas and increased flooding projections into shoreline management decisions.

To implement these goals, the state’s Coastal Management Program is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconstruct shorelines that were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. As part of these efforts, they developed a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve. The state also established a Living Shorelines Committee, chaired by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, to help landowners find information about the use of living shorelines to address coastal erosion. Interactive maps and images of living shoreline projects in progress are available on the committee’s website.

Forestry

The 2015 Framework’s goals related to forestry call for the state to evaluate, plan for, and educate citizens about susceptibility to wildfires through risk management, fire prevention, and forest management as climatic conditions and risk factors change.

In the “Delaware Forest Resource Assessment,” the state’s Forest Service identifies climate change as a threat to the state’s forests, causing the inland migration of forests and shifts in tree species composition, both due to sea-level rise and increasing temperatures. To mitigate these impacts, Delaware Forest Service’s annual Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program offers grants to municipalities, community associations, and nonprofits to plant trees to improve stormwater management during heavy rainfalls while also increasing urban canopy to reduce heat island effects.

Infrastructure

The Framework’s goals include guidelines for improving infrastructure, especially that which is considered critical, including schools, transportation systems, and bridges. This involves siting assets in areas that are not vulnerable to sea-level rise or increased flooding; promoting sustainable design (e.g., LEED certified); applying an asset management approach to address climate risk over the course of a building or piece of infrastructure’s entire life cycle. The Framework also calls for an evaluation of state-owned facilities that are susceptible to climate change; plans for retrofit or abandonment according to new design standards; and highlights the need for a model building code to be developed for state and local governments.

On October 9, 2017, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Energy and Climate released a report, Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Planning, summarizing the state’s work to assess climate-related risks for three state-owned public use or critical facilities (i.e., a transportation maintenance and operations headquarters, life-saving station, and police station) to identify possible flood risk mitigation and energy conservation strategies for each type of structure. The state undertook this pilot project to proactively evaluate how climate change could affect the reliability of public and critical services delivered throughout Delaware and to also integrate flood and energy risk assessments as part of the state’s actions to prepare for and adapt to climate change.

The 2012 Preparing for Tomorrow's High Tide report describes and quantifies the impacts of sea-level rise on 79 resources in Delaware, including transportation-related structures. The report assesses the risks to Delaware’s transportation infrastructure, including railroad lines, roads and bridges, and the Port of Wilmington. The state has also taken steps to ensure that transportation systems are more resilient to future flood risks. For example, in 2016, the Delaware Department of Transportation updated its Bridge Design Manual to provide guidance on how to consider sea-level rise and increased flooding in bridge design.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

The state’s public health goals call for evaluation and monitoring of new and emerging diseases and increased public education about the effects of climate change on those diseases and other health threats. It also calls for the evaluation of the costs and benefits of developing an environmental public health tracking system and other means of tracking and analyzing data to assess the effects of climate change on public health; updating state public health policies and procedures to monitor climate change health impacts; and enhancing the surveillance of insect-transmitted and emerging diseases.

To implement these goals, the Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health is developing an online Environmental Public Health Tracking System tool that will help the state collect and analyze health data, including indicators affected by climate change. This tool will also serve as a publicly accessible resource for local governments and communities, fostering the exchange of information.

To facilitate education and outreach, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Energy and Climate convened a Delaware Climate + Health Conference in 2017 with representatives from the health, medical, environmental, critical services, and other sectors. The event focused on ways to evaluate how climate change will exacerbate public and environmental health-related impacts in the state. In addition, the state participated in the Climate-Ready Workforce Pilot Project designed to assess the health and safety risks for state employees who work outside or in environments that are vulnerable to hazardous weather conditions, such as extreme temperatures and flooding, and provide recommendations on adaptation strategies that could minimize these risks.

To enhance surveillance of insect-transmitted and emerging diseases, the Department of Public Health is collaborating with DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, to monitor mosquito populations and the transmission of diseases, such as Zika, that are expected to increase in Delaware due to climate change.

 

Water

Many of the Framework’s water-related goals focus on protecting and maintaining sources of safe drinking water; this includes assisting local governments and other water suppliers in the protection of stormwater and portable water systems from increased flooding and saltwater intrusion due to sea-level. To this end, the Framework also calls for updating technical standards, specifications, and state policies and programs for stormwater management, water quality, and wetlands, as needed.

To implement these goals, the Delaware Geological Survey is monitoring groundwater level, temperature, and salinity in a network of wells in Delaware and proactively testing salinity sensors along the coast through its Delaware Groundwater Monitoring Network to assess saltwater intrusion from rising seas. In 2016, the state released the Green Infrastructure Primer: A Delaware Guide to Using Natural Systems in Urban, Rural, and Coastal Settings, which provides an overview of nature-based approaches that can mitigate stormwater runoff, flooding, erosion, and water and air pollution.


(Research last updated June 25, 2018).
 

 
 
 
 

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