Managed Retreat Toolkit
Social/Equity: Community Engagement and Equity
|Source: New York City Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development.
While managed retreat tools and strategies will vary based on local context, one crosscutting element is critical: these decisions must be community-based, -driven, and -supported. It will be important for state and local governments everywhere to design and implement equitable community engagement and adaptation approaches. This will be particularly relevant for the development of laws and policies affecting frontline communities in both coastal and “receiving” areas. Frontline communities include people who are both more exposed to climate risks (because of the places where they live and the projected changes expected to occur in those places) and have fewer resources or safety nets to respond to and recover from those risks (e.g., individuals who may lack financial resources).See footnote 1 Frontline communities living and working on the coast are being disproportionately impacted by sea-level rise, flooding, erosion, and other coastal hazards like extreme storms.See footnote 2 While some people a part of frontline communities may choose to live on the coast or in floodplains for economic, historical, cultural, or personal reasons (e.g., fishermen, watermen, shrimpers, and those working in the shipping and port industries), others have been forced to live or resettle there due to systemically racist and discriminatory government policies and decisions.See footnote 3 Those living on the coast — even if initially forced or displaced — have built lives there and have ties to these places that will make it difficult to move away from their homes and property, despite present and future climate threats.
|Source: New York City Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development.
Additionally, people living and working in higher ground “receiving” areas will also be affected by managed retreat. In many places, “climate gentrification” is an emerging trend whereby traditionally low-income and communities of color are now being displaced from inland or higher elevation neighborhoods that are generally less vulnerable to climate impacts including sea-level rise and flooding. Black and other people of color who were historically shut out from more desirable areas within different regions because of economic limitations and discriminatory redlining policies now face displacement due to climate change.See footnote 4 Redlining, a practice — where banks restricted mortgage lending to black people in specified, and typically undesirable areas — reinforced racial segregation in residential housing and education and contributed to social and economic disparities in access to jobs and essential services that remain today.See footnote 5 In some instances, these policies ultimately forced communities of color to find housing in undesirable areas, for example, at the extreme reaches of the coast in Louisiana and further inland in South Florida.See footnote 6 While the official policies were discontinued in the 1960s, the effects of redlining, which include a lack of neighborhood investment that reinforced social and economic disparities, remain for many black communities and other low-income communities of color.See footnote 7 Climate gentrification now threatens to disproportionately displace the same communities of color that were subject to segregation and redlining policies. Specifically, many of the individuals and communities of color that contributed to the neighborhoods, businesses, and cultural hallmarks and traditions that emerged despite the burden of housing discrimination now face housing vulnerability and potential evictions as real estate values and rents increase in areas that are being valued for their resiliency. For cities like Miami, as sea levels rise, developers and homeowners are looking to higher ground in the Liberty City, Little Haiti, and West Coconut Grove neighborhoods to shift development away from the coast.See footnote 8 Prevented from living on the coast, people in these Miami communities are being displaced from their homes and businesses in areas that are considered receiving or less climate vulnerable locations where new development is intensifying.See footnote 9
Managed retreat should be viewed comprehensively and implemented in ways that can help alleviate or mitigate some of the physical climate and coastal hazard impacts and present inequities facing communities. Moreover, if retreat is “managed” in a proactive, pre-disaster context, it can also help minimize the economic, environmental, and social costs of sudden displacements and more haphazard post-disaster or “unmanaged” responses.See footnote 10 Managed retreat may even create new opportunities for policymakers to better support people who choose to move from riskier coastal areas to safer receiving communities. This section provides some case studies and practice tips compiled from current and emerging examples where community engagement and equitable considerations were or are successfully being integrated into decisionmaking processes around managed retreat.
Community Engagement and Equity in a Managed Retreat Context
State and local governments can start engaging communities by equitably fostering discussions about managed retreat at the outset of climate adaptation and resilience discussions. While managed retreat will not always be the best or a preferred adaptation strategy in every location, governments should encourage proactive discussions about it to avoid precluding the consideration and potential implementation of viable and less costly or disruptive adaptation alternatives. As climate change intensifies and sea levels continue to rise, short-term and short-sighted decisionmaking could exacerbate the physical, fiscal, and economic risks already facing many communities and governments. Before convening these discussions, however, governments must work with communities to build trust where it may not already exist. Additionally, governments should work with community members and community-based organizations — especially in economically- and resource-disadvantaged communities — to identify and provide them with tools and information (e.g., data, mapping, and metrics) that are prompting decisionmakers to take action and include the community as a partner in the process. The work to build local capacity and educate residents should be viewed as a sustained goal — and not a one-off project — so that people can actively participate in and contribute to legal and policymaking processes over the long term. Specifically, state and local governments need to engage people in both vulnerable coastal areas and receiving communities throughout the entirety of these processes from the early planning stages to legal, policy, and project implementation. Further, governments have to design and structure these processes in authentic and meaningful ways beyond merely “checking a box.” Notably, policymakers must recognize and be open to actively listen to the history, needs, and values of community members themselves and evaluate these processes to ensure that all sides feel heard and empowered. This will require that governments — and public-private partnerships — dedicate the funding and staffing resources necessary to support and sustain them.
|Source: Georgetown Climate Center.
While there are resources available on community engagement and equitable adaptation,See footnote 11 there is a general recognition among state and local policymakers and community-based and grassroots organizations that more tools, resources, and innovation are needed to support more effective dialogues on this specific subject. This is underscored by the unique and encompassing challenges associated with managed retreat that include legitimate and deeply felt concerns about leaving one’s home, the loss of a sense of place, severing cultural and historical ties, and fears and mistrust of the government and its encroachment on private property rights, among others. Some organizations, like the Climigration Network run by the nonprofit Consensus Building Institute,See footnote 12 are actively working in this space to help support community-led processes around managed retreat by providing funding for small projects on the ground;See footnote 13 however, much more support and engagement are needed given the scale of the challenge. Regardless, it is necessary to highlight that all examples, takeaways, and lessons learned will have to be adapted to the local context, including the relevant legal and policy considerations.
From Community Engagement to the Equitable Implementation of Managed Retreat Strategies
|Source: New York City Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development.
While the focus of this section is on incorporating equity into community engagement, it is crucial to note the connection between these processes and the implementation of managed retreat strategies on the ground. For those who choose to move away from the coast, state and local governments must build on community engagement efforts to craft managed retreat laws and policies that do not exacerbate historical and systemic discrimination and inequalities. While this will be important for the consideration and implementation of all legal and policy tools, it will be especially magnified in the context of buyouts and other acquisition tools, like land swaps, where people decide to physically relocate away from their homes.See footnote 14 Notably, studies have shown that many buyout programs have disproportionate impacts on low-income communities and communities of color and that people participating in buyouts will not always be made whole.See footnote 15 Here, policymakers need to be mindful of supporting equitable transitions that help people move somewhere safer (e.g., outside of vulnerable floodplains) where they can, at a minimum, attain comparable housing, infrastructure, and services. State and local governments can play important roles in facilitating transitions for residents that can help minimize some of the economic, social, and psychological impacts of buyouts. For example, the New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program and City of Austin, Texas provide buyout participants with individual case workers to guide them through the process and navigate questions about how to find new, comparable homes or rental units. One municipality participating in the New Jersey Blue Acres Program, Woodbridge Township, worked with Catholic Charities to help people find rental housing in buyouts post-Hurricane Sandy.
In addition to helping to facilitate more equitable transitions, governments must address the implications of managed retreat on anticipated receiving communities. By prioritizing the need to assess and mitigate the impacts of managed retreat on a receiving community, governments can ease transitions for people moving into these areas, and also alleviate the potential resource burdens on those already living there. By factoring the needs of the receiving communities into decisionmaking, governments will be able to proactively invest in affordable housing, infrastructure, and critical services. These investments should support and sustain relocated residents, while simultaneously reflecting — and not displacing — the needs, priorities, and historic and cultural character of current residents and neighborhoods. This is a tall order, especially in resource-strapped and already densely populated communities.
Given the crosscutting purpose of this section, in-depth recommendations for how state and local policymakers can equitably design and implement each tool are provided in individual tool sections of this toolkit.
Meaningful community engagement can be safeguarded through carefully designed processes. State and local governments can consider applying the following practice tips to actualize and center community engagement processes in equity:
- Consider managed retreat at the start of climate adaptation discussions: Managed retreat considerations should be brought to the table at the outset of climate adaptation planning processes. While the term “managed retreat” may be a sensitive or jarring term subject to local, cultural, or historical scrutiny, policymakers should not put off the discussion of managed retreat until after disasters occur. The terminology (i.e., what to call managed retreat) challenge should not serve as a deterrent or an outright barrier to working with communities to save lives, properties, and the environment. Before convening these discussions, however, governments must work with communities to build trust where it does not already exist. To ensure more productive dialogues and build or grow trust, state and local governments should partner with local nonprofits or community-based or grassroots organizations with established ties and relationships in their communities. For instance, in Hampton, New Hampshire, the local conservation nonprofit Seabrook-Hamptons Estuary Alliance is leading an ongoing discussion at the local level about climate adaptation and managed retreat. As a part of this process, the Seabrook-Hamptons Estuary Alliance has been successful in bringing state and local agency staff, elected officials, and local stakeholders and residents to the decisionmaking table.
- Develop informed and transparent processes: To build trust and authentic partnerships with communities, policymakers or organizers should, if possible, have first-hand knowledge of the local context in the places in which they are working. Managed retreat requires expert inputs in addition to a true understanding of local communities. It is also important to keep affected residents and stakeholders apprised of policy and project updates. Governments should aim to keep community members informed at appropriate junctures, even when policy or project updates may not be favorable. As with the Quinault Indian Nation, governments can use various mediums and types of materials to update people, like through newsletters and regular reports to legislative bodies (e.g., city council).
- Allocate sufficient funds and resources to support community engagement processes: Effective and sustained community engagement requires funding and staff support. State or local governments should develop these processes with sufficient resources in mind. To implement LA SAFE’s comprehensive community engagement and planning model, the State of Louisiana received $40 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the National Disaster Resilience Competition, in addition to other state and nongovernmental funds. In the absence of comparable funding opportunities, this level of funding and the scale of this model will be difficult to replicate in many jurisdictions; however, governments should seek opportunities to leverage public-private partnerships and other federal and external sources of funding and in-kind support (e.g., volunteer time, meeting facilities, food) to fulfill priority community engagement needs.
- Design phased process to facilitate more equitable transitions: Due to the complexities of managed retreat, it is unlikely that comprehensive strategies will be solely implemented through short-term, standalone efforts. Instead, governments must contemplate phasing managed retreat actions over a long-term time horizon. Managed retreat is more than just physically helping people move out of harm’s way. State and local governments must also consider the social and cultural implications of managed retreat and design multi-stage planning processes. Among other benefits, phased processes can help communities gradually transition away from vulnerable coastal areas and allow residents to have more time to process the grief associated with leaving their homes. Additionally, phased processes can provide governments with more time to engage and learn from residents about the climate impacts they are experiencing and provide more time to prepare for and make investments in receiving areas.
- Design transformative or visioning processes for managed retreat: Visioning processes can create a platform to help communities plan for retreat and receiving communities to sketch their future development blueprint according to the changing landscape. Plans, among other tools aimed at promoting long-term, “bigger picture” thinking, can potentially support the design of receiving communities. While this will not entirely mitigate the significant emotional trauma or sense of loss people may experience from leaving their homes, it may help create a sense of hope where they can contribute to shaping their futures. One example of this type of process comes from Edgemere, a neighborhood in Queens, New York, that suffered damage after Hurricane Sandy. The City of New York used questionnaires and held workshops, open houses, and small group meetings to build a community-led vision of how Edgemere could become more resilient through the potential implementation of different projects over both the short and long term. Thoughtful processes can also help people preserve and carry forward elements from their previous communities to their new ones while maintaining some sense of continuity. In 2017, the Town of Princeville, North Carolina engaged experts and communities in a long-term, comprehensive planning process to annex a 53-acre parcel of land located outside of the town’s 100-year floodplain to develop a safer, higher ground area where residents, structures, and infrastructure can be relocated. Princeville provides an example for other municipalities for how to balance the preservation of original townships while addressing vulnerabilities to flooding and increasing the resiliency of core community assets and services.
- Set a clear timeframe and achievable meeting goals: Community engagement processes around managed retreat will involve working among several and diverse stakeholders over longer time periods (i.e., multiple months or years). Accordingly, it will be crucial for governments to design and execute efficient processes that set clear timeframes, goals, objectives, and expectations to bring community members along and maximize their participation and contributions. Notably, governments and communities may disagree on these points, so there may be a need for upfront dialogue, iteration, and flexibility on both sides. LA SAFE provides one model that governments can consider when handling larger-scale managed retreat efforts. LA SAFE organizers set a realistic nine-month time frame to hold community meetings and divided that time into five rounds of meetings. Moreover, each meeting was structured around a clear and achievable goal to focus participants.
- Build local capacity: To conduct a truly community-driven process, community members themselves must have the capacity to guide and participate in these conversations. The government should also lean on existing community knowledge and leadership and provide the option of training local community leaders to facilitate and lead the discussions on community adaptation issues if needed. Governments can create training programs and offer stipends for community facilitators who are willing to dedicate time to enhance and build upon the existing skills needed to coordinate these discussions. For instance, to support LA SAFE, the nonprofit Foundation for Louisiana trained local facilitators through its LEAD the Coast program.
- Design various types of interactive activities to facilitate increased and more meaningful engagement: To encourage community participation, state and local governments should design various types of activities, such as small group meetings, brainstorming workshops, virtual meeting options, surveys, and questionnaires, that can help get people out of their comfort zone and build deeper relationships. Governments should not confine themselves to rigid public hearing formats; instead, they should apply different approaches across the various stages of decisionmaking processes to achieve different objectives. For example, as the State of Hawaii assessed the potential feasibility of managed retreat in the state, the lead agency held various meetings and symposiums inviting community members to join. Through this process, community members became more familiar with the concept of managed retreat and gave valuable input that informed the government’s work. In Punta Gorda, Florida, the city developed its Climate Adaptation Plan with direct public participation from residents through games, individual interviews, and pre- and post-workshops surveys. Creative conservation projects can also foster enhanced community engagement opportunities. To cultivate stewards at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, federal and state land managers and environmental nonprofits have invited residents to replant marsh grasses vulnerable to sea-level rise and take tours of restoration sites.
- Provide support services and resources to facilitate increased participation: Governments should provide necessary support services and resources so that residents can participate in meetings and feel valued for their time spent. Examples of support services and resources include: providing childcare, translating meeting materials in different languages, and making these materials available via multiple in-person and online platforms. For example, in some cases, residents cannot leave their children at home to join community meetings; therefore, offering childcare can be essential to enable diverse perspectives and inclusive attendance and participation. LA SAFE organizers provided childcare so that more residents could join meetings. Governments should also provide translated materials for non-English speaking residents, as the LA SAFE organizers did for Vietnamese and Cambodian residents. Other types of support services can include providing meals and stipends for meeting participants. Furthermore, to allow residents to learn about managed retreat tools and options, governments should also consider opportunities to create and distribute online resources to reach wider audiences. In Harris County, Texas, the regional Flood Control District bought-out more than 3,000 properties located in vulnerable floodplains and, in the process, established a user-friendly website providing detailed information about the voluntary buyout process. The website also includes testimonials from previous program participants, infographics, and easy-to-follow videos.
- Build public-private partnerships: Community-based and grassroots organizations have valuable hands-on experiences working and building trust with their communities. Governments should evaluate opportunities for partnering with these entities to promote the consideration of managed retreat policies. Two types of partnerships can be instructive here. First, partnerships can be structured to let community-based or grassroots organizations take the lead. For instance, in Hampton, New Hampshire, the Seabrook-Hamptons Estuary Alliance initiated climate adaptation workshops and dialogues through the development of a state-local partnership. Second, state and local governments can invite nongovernmental entities to participate in these processes. In Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, the township partnered with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey to educate residents flooded during Hurricane Sandy about the benefits and tradeoffs of participating in the New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program. As a result, nearly 200 residents accepted a buyout offer.
- Evaluate and adapt community engagement processes: Governments and communities should work together to design community engagement processes with active evaluation steps and feedback loops to manage and adapt to them, as needed. This will be particularly important to assess and ensure that community members feel heard, community expectations are met, and procedural and substantive goals and objectives are achieved. Moreover, given the ongoing peer-learning among communities considering managed retreat nationally, evaluation processes and results can better inform and improve future efforts.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of Louisiana: Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE)
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Hampton, New Hampshire: Community-Driven Climate Adaptation Planning Process
Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) is a community-based planning and capital investment process that will help the state fund and implement several projects, including for managed retreat, to make its coasts more resilient. The state partnered with the nonprofit Foundation for Louisiana to administer LA SAFE and facilitate an extensive, year-long community engagement process that will result in implementation of ten funded projects across the six parishes. To integrate public preferences in project design and selection, 3,000 participants including residents, community stakeholders, and government officials attended 71 meetings over the course of five rounds in each of the six parishes. Among several inclusive meeting features, the Foundation for Louisiana worked through a complementary program, LEAD the Coast, to build local capacity by training local facilitators. To ensure meetings were accessible to all community members, LA SAFE organizers provided translated educational materials for Vietnamese and Cambodian residents. In addition, LA SAFE organizers also provided needed services, such as childcare and meals, to support residents’ participation. LA SAFE is also notable because it adopted a regional approach to comprehensively mitigate multiple types of risks facing people living in coastal Louisiana. Specifically, through the program, the state designed LA SAFE to address risk and resilience across multiple sectors (e.g., housing, transportation, infrastructure, economic development), and to advance adaptation projects to achieve different risk-based goals. By contemplating a comprehensive, regional model, LA SAFE serves as an effective example for other states and local governments making long-term adaptation and resilience investments.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Staten Island, New York: Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee and Program
The coastal town of Hampton, New Hampshire has identified the need for long-term climate adaptation planning to address the impacts of sea-level rise and improve community resilience to coastal flooding through a state-local, public-private partnership. This ongoing adaptation planning process that started in 2018 is being led by the Seabrook–Hamptons Estuary Alliance (SHEA) — a local conservation nonprofit — with support from others including the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program (NH Coastal Program) and town officials and staff. The approach taken by SHEA and the NH Coastal Program offers a unique example of community-driven, multifaceted planning focused on informing and educating the community through a series of workshops and surveys to gauge awareness and opinions across a range of different adaptation strategies. The results of these efforts are being used to inform local actions going forward, including potentially adding climate adaptation planning for coastal hazards in the town’s master plan or considering implementation of a voluntary buyout program.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Quinault Indian Nation, Washington: Taholah Village Relocation Master Plan
Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Oakwood Beach on Staten Island in New York City became the first community to take advantage of New York State’s post-Hurricane Sandy buyout program to plan for retreat. This model can be replicated in other vulnerable coastal locations. The members of the small community formed the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee (committee), and petitioned the state government to buy out entire neighborhoods, which resulted in large-scale risk reduction and cost-saving benefits compared to individual buyouts. The committee educated residents about the potential of voluntary buyouts and developed a buyout plan to support nearly 200 Oakwood Beach households.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Queens, New York: Resilient Edgemere Community Plan
Quinault Indian Nation (QIN), a federally recognized tribe located in Washington state, is currently implementing a phased relocation plan as part of a managed retreat strategy in response to the impacts of sea-level rise, flooding, and concern about the increased likelihood of tsunamis and storm surges attributed to climate change. In 2017, QIN adopted the Taholah Village Relocation Master Plan that outlines a vision and development plan for relocating a portion of QIN living in the Lower Village of Taholah to a higher ground location in the Upper Village Relocation Area. To create the Master Plan, the QIN Community Development and Planning Department (department) carried out a variety of community engagement projects, including village-wide meetings, personal conversations, presentations at tribal dinners, door-to-door and online surveys, and convened stakeholder committees over a two-year period. To encourage meeting participation, the department provided meals, which are very important to the tribal culture, and held raffles. These engagement efforts helped to ensure that tribal members were involved in the relocation process from the outset and that the plan identified critical community issues, concerns, challenges, desires, and partnerships. Additionally, the Tribal Council was instrumental in providing input and institutional support for the community engagement process. With the Council’s involvement, general resolutions were passed to create hiring preferences for tribal members to implement the Master Plan. The QIN hopes the relocation process will build generational capacity and that construction in the Upper Village and throughout the reservation will support job creation. The community engagement processes and sustainable planning strategies can provide transferable lessons for other state and local jurisdictions considering similar questions of strategic planning for coastal retreat and relocation, even on a smaller scale.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Woodbridge Township, New Jersey: Post-Hurricane Sandy Buyouts
After Hurricane Sandy, New York City (NYC) engaged in a community-driven planning process and implemented multiple voluntary relocation projects in the Edgemere neighborhood of Queens to reduce flood risks and move people out of harm’s way. The plan is notable for being developed through an 18-month public engagement process that placed residents, who best understand their community, at the center of an open and transparent neighborhood planning process. The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) launched the Resilient Edgemere Community Planning Initiative in October 2015 as a collaboration between city agencies, community members, elected officials, and local organizations. By engaging directly with residents and stakeholders through the planning process, a number of problems and their impacts were identified, including flooding and ponding and the blight of vacant land. From May 2016 to February 2017, NYC HPD and partner agencies turned the draft strategies developed through the learning and creation phases into final strategies and projects. The Resilient Edgemere Community Plan lays out a long-term vision for achieving a more resilient neighborhood with improved housing, transportation access, and neighborhood amenities.
Preserving Our Place — A Community Field Guide to Engagement, Resilience, and Resettlement: Community Regeneration in the Face of Environmental and Developmental Pressures
Woodbridge Township, New Jersey is working with the New Jersey Blue Acres Program to implement a neighborhood-wide buyout post-Hurricane Sandy that can serve as an example for other jurisdictions considering larger-scale retreat from coastal areas. Woodbridge’s example demonstrates how comprehensive, community-based approaches to buyouts can maximize long-term benefits for communities and the environment. With the support of the state, local elected officials in Woodbridge, including the mayor, committed to a community-based approach and prioritized flood mitigation and future safety and emergency management benefits over potential tax base losses if residents relocated outside of the township. The community-based effort in Woodbridge looked comprehensively at using a public-private partnership to work with residents in response to their individual and evolving needs throughout this process. This approach allowed the township to simultaneously achieve the community, environmental, and economic benefits of a large-scale buyout while minimizing the potential costs associated with a person’s decision to participate in a buyout program. As a result of this approach and an extensive community engagement process, nearly 200 property owners accepted a buyout offer.
Annexing and Preparing Higher Ground Receiving Areas in Princeville, North Carolina Through Post-Disaster Recovery Processes
In 2019, the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) collaborated with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to release this field guide. IDJC is in the process of relocating from the Louisiana coast due to significant land loss and flooding impacts to a new community further inland. The field guide was developed to serve dual purposes: first, to document the community engagement process that IDJC developed throughout its resettlement planning process; and second, to provide procedural guidance and lessons learned for communities that are also contemplating large-scale relocation. The field guide can be used by other tribal or frontline coastal communities that are considering potential larger-scale managed retreat or relocation strategies to adapt to climate change impacts like sea-level rise and other stressors and pressures, like environmental justice and encroaching development.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Punta Gorda, Florida: Climate Adaptation and Comprehensive Plans and Updates
In 2017, the Town of Princeville, North Carolina engaged experts and communities in a long-term, comprehensive planning process to annex a 53-acre parcel of land located outside of the town’s 100-year floodplain to develop a safer, higher ground area where residents, structures, and infrastructure can be relocated. Princeville provides an example to other municipalities about how to balance the need to preserve original townships while addressing flooding vulnerabilities and increasing the resiliency of core community assets and services. Princeville is currently evaluating plans to relocate the Princeville Town Hall, elementary school, and fire, police, and medical services to higher ground while maintaining connections to the existing town’s heritage and character and connections to Princeville’s Historic Downtown.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of Hawaii: Assessing the Feasibility and Implications of Managed Retreat Strategies for Vulnerable Coastal Areas in Hawaii
Punta Gorda, Florida has responded to the threat of coastal storms and climate change impacts with two different plans — a Climate Adaptation Plan and a local comprehensive plan — to promote, manage, and protect the city’s natural resources and plan for development in a way that minimizes risks to people and property and conserves ecosystems. Punta Gorda provides a useful example of how effective community engagement can enhance adaptation planning and build community support for managed retreat strategies. The 2009 Adaptation Plan is unique because it was developed through a “citizen-driven process.” During the process, the city engaged directly with residents and state and local agencies to identify climate vulnerabilities and priorities and evaluate adaptation options. The city used public participation games, individual interviews, pre- and post-workshop surveys, and other tools. The city reports that community engagement produced a more effective local response and greater support for adaptation actions. For the 2019 update, the city conducted a survey to assess local awareness of risks and the city’s Adaptation Plan as part of an ongoing effort to build a vision for adaptation that is informed by community needs and priorities. The result of the survey was incorporated in the 2019 update which identifies the city’s progress to date and future adaptation actions the city could consider implementing.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland: Blackwater 2100
In February 2019, the State of Hawaii Office of Planning, Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP), published a report: Assessing the Feasibility and Implications of Managed Retreat Strategies for Vulnerable Coastal Areas in Hawaii (report). CZMP drafted the report in response to a request for the state to evaluate the potential for a managed retreat program in Hawaii. In developing the report, CZMP designed and implemented a three-phased approach that consisted of conducting background research; evaluating how retreat could apply in four different area typologies; and convening an interdisciplinary symposium to engage experts and stakeholders. Knowledge sharing was a key component of the process with more than 200 stakeholders, including decisionmakers, government agencies, private industries, researchers, community groups, and private citizens, contributing to each of the three project phases. Both Hawaii’s three-phased approach and the final report provide helpful examples of how one state designed and implemented a comprehensive process led by its CZMP to evaluate the potential for retreat. These examples may inform planning and policy actions for managed retreat in other jurisdictions.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of New Jersey: Blue Acres Buyout Program
In 2013, The Conservation Fund, National Audubon Society, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) partnered to produce a “salt marsh persistence” report for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) titled Blackwater 2100 to address marsh migration in response to sea-level rise and tidal erosion. Blackwater 2100 provides an example of how nongovernmental organizations can work with land managers to engage the public in a managed retreat context to enhance and protect coastal ecosystems. To develop Blackwater 2100, The Conservation Fund, Audubon Maryland–D.C., Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and USFWS engaged the public to help assess the value of tidal marshes for different stakeholders. These entities have also engaged surrounding communities to support wetland stewardship and climate adaptation projects including to replant marsh grasses. In addition, they have organized several project tours at the project sites and held public meetings at the Refuge Visitors Center. While Blackwater 2100 is primarily focused on preserving bird habitat and marsh persistence, the report also highlights the important cultural and economic values of Blackwater NWR and how management efforts should simultaneously benefit humans.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — City of Austin, Texas: Flood Risk Reduction Buyout Projects
The New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program is a nationally recognized example of a longstanding, state-run buyout program. Blue Acres works closely with municipalities throughout the state to identify privately owned properties that are routinely threatened or flooded due to sea-level rise and more frequent weather events. To accomplish effective state-local coordination, the program has a diversified staff that supports local needs by providing case workers who work directly with participants in each buyout area, and a financial team that negotiates mortgage forgiveness with banks and other financial lenders on behalf of homeowners. The voluntary program has witnessed greater success in communities where one resident becomes an advocate for buyouts and moves to engage and educate his/her neighbors. Success is multiplied whenever residents engage with each other and encourage others to participate in the buyout program.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: Floodplain Buyout Program
The City of Austin, Texas has adopted a model to provide consistent relocation benefits and assistance for voluntary home buyouts in the city’s floodplains as a part of its “flood risk reduction projects.” The city has taken a hands-on approach to helping residents relocate. The city’s lead buyout agency, the Watershed Protection Department, consults with residents early-on in each project and provides initial review with property owners to learn about their housing needs and priorities. Following the interview, a real estate expert is assigned to work closely with the residents to find comparable properties on the market. This commitment to public service helps residents interpret and understand engineering studies, creates understanding of flood risks, and ensures community engagement throughout the buyout process.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Harris County, Texas: Flood Control District Local Buyout Program
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSS) — a county-wide regional utility in North Carolina — has been administering a Floodplain Buyout Program to relocate vulnerable residents out of floodplains and reduce long-term flood damage. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention and water quality improvement functions and provide other community amenities, like parks and trails. CMSS engages Mecklenburg County’s residents throughout all stages of the buyout process from initial education and outreach to finalizing a property’s transfer. CMSS also works with community members to design and realize a vision for each large-scale bought-out area once all homes are purchased and demolished. CMSS hopes that bought-out properties become community assets, in addition to serving as natural floodplains and providing ecosystem benefits.
Harris County, Texas established a voluntary home buyout program through the regional government agency, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD). The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention functions. HCFCD has developed an effective communication and outreach strategy to educate the public and encourage program participation. HCFCD has established a strong online presence with a user-friendly website offering detailed information about the voluntary buyout process. The availability of these resources allows people to become familiar with buyouts and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of volunteering their properties for the program. HCFCD supplements its online resources with targeted mail campaigns and in-person resources, such as door-to-door visits and community meetings in high flood risk priority areas. This dual communications approach has given the buyout program traction during non-disaster periods and allows HCFCD to actively disseminate accurate information, avoid misconceptions about buyouts, and incentivize participation.
Environmental: Wetlands Migration Social/Equity: Receiving Communities