BOGUE BANKS — State officials in early June completed a plan to improve resilience to severe weather and other climate stressors coastal communities have long experienced.
The N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, along with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, submitted the N.C. Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office June 2. According to the plan’s executive summary, storms are becoming “stronger and more intense,” taking a toll on human life, health and the state’s economy.
“Our state has suffered from multiple natural disasters in recent years,” the executive summary reads. “Hurricane Dorian in 2019 was the third significant hurricane to impact the state, following Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018). These storms have cost lives, along with billions of dollars in damage and inflicted psychological stress on those whose lives and livelihood have been disrupted many times over.”
The plan was created as part of Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 80 in 2018. It calls for integration of climate adaptation and resilience planning in cabinet agency policies, programs and operations. It also calls for state agencies to develop resilience strategies that support communities and vulnerable economic sectors.
“Following 11 months of collaborative work, this document lays out the groundwork for focusing the state’s attention on climate resilience actions both within the government and together with business, academic, nonprofit and community partners,” the executive summary reads. “It recognizes that climate change adaptation and the concept of resilience to improve our ability to adapt and recover from future disasters are extremely complex processes.”
Coastal communities are one step ahead of the state when it comes to pursuing resilience to increasingly severe weather events. On Bogue Banks, Atlantic Beach officials created a stormwater resiliency plan, which the town council approved in January 2019.
Atlantic Beach Planning and Zoning Director Michelle Eitner said the town’s recreational water quality committee met during 2018 to create the town’s plan, recommending three actions in their final report, including partnering with the N.C. Coastal Federation – a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the coastal environment – on creating a watershed restoration plan.
“Through grant funding opportunities, the watershed restoration plan grew to become the ‘Stormwater Resiliency Plan’ and is underway through a partnership with the town of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina Coastal Federation, East Carolina Council of Governments and LSDI Engineering,” Ms. Eitner said.
In Morehead City, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries public information officer Patricia Smith said that agency was part of the DEQ’s team on the creation of the state resilience plan.
“The next step for the Division of Marine Fisheries will be to begin integrating the strategies from the N.C. Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan into division planning,” she said. Among the strategies relating to marine fisheries are the following:
- Developing a storm management plan for shellfish growers.
- Incorporating climate and environmental variables into stock assessments and fish stock rebuilding plans as part of fishery management plans.
- Including resilience strategies into the division’s coastal habitat protection plan.
- Assisting other state, federal and local government agencies with incorporating climate change considerations into their planning process.
- Mapping, assessing and monitoring coastal fish habitats, such as submerged aquatic vegetation.
- Funding and continuing to plan for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades to ensure core DMF operations continue in the event of damage to offices and/or equipment.
Other state agencies have already begun work on resilience projects. N.C. Division of Coastal Management coastal and ocean policy manager Tancred Miller said the division is working with NCORR, N.C. Sea Grant and The Nature Conservancy on a project to increase local resilience to storms and flooding.
“We’re awaiting funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to start the project,” he said, “which will be offered coastwide, including Carteret County.”
Mr. Miller said the DCM is still working out the details on the project.
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced June 18 it had awarded a $1 million grant to the N.C. Department of Public Safety to help create a statewide framework on disaster resilience planning, as well as to provide economic guidance and strategic training. The department’s Economic Development Administration said the grant will be matched with $287,932 in local investment.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in the department’s press release the administration of President Donald Trump “is committed to strengthening community-led natural disaster recovery and resilience efforts that support the competitiveness of local businesses.”
“NCDPS’s updated resiliency planning framework will ensure that North Carolina is well-equipped to mitigate further disaster damage,” Sec. Ross said.
Gov. Cooper said the grant represents the state’s commitment “to building back smarter and stronger.”
“By securing this funding, the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency has continued to guide that work so our state will be more resilient in the face of future disasters,” he said.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.