In early 2016, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a three-year, $780,000 grant to the Cape Cod Commission and partners to develop a tool and public outreach program to investigate the environmental and socio-economic effects of local and regional coastal resiliency strategies.
The grant is funded through the NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grant program, which supports regional-scale projects that enhance the resilience of coastal communities and economies to the effects of extreme weather, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions.
The Commission’s proposal is one of six selected from 132 applications nationwide. According to NOAA, projects recommended for funding improve coastal risk assessment and communication, promote collaborative approaches to resilience planning, and better inform science based decision-making and implementation.
“The challenges confronting our nation’s coastal communities are incredibly complicated. Effective solutions are going to require strong science, ingenuity and collaboration if they are going to safeguard and ensure the future vitality of our economy and valuable natural resources,” Dr. Jeffrey Payne, Acting Director of the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, said. “The projects that have been approved for funding represent opportunities to do just that.”
As lead agency for the grant, the Commission will develop a tool to translate technical data into understandable and actionable language, estimate loss of individual and government assets, communicate adaptation strategies and their costs and benefits, communicate the need for action and engage the public in selecting and implementing site-specific strategies.
The resiliency tool will be based on those developed by the Commission to support nitrogen-management decisions during the Section 208 Update. Those tools added dimensions of community values, cost and environmental effectiveness to provide local decision makers with more holistic evaluations on the effect of solutions on their communities.
“We saw first-hand how simplifying complex datasets into map-based tools helped expand the community conversation beyond the experts,’ Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki said. “Making the technical concepts and consequences of different actions accessible to everyone can move those conversations into actions that communities can support.”
The public engagement will follow the highly regarded process used during the Commission’s update of the Section 208 Water Quality Management Plan. A robust, regionally based stakeholder program is an integral part of all three years of the grant, beginning with data collection and information vetting in the initial year.
The Cape Cod Commission and its partners outlined a public engagement and planning process to
The public will be engaged throughout these efforts, including in a fourth phase pilot project conducted in the Town of Barnstable.
Supporting the tool will be new Commission-led economic research on the willingness of communities to pay for different strategies. Understanding how a community views and values different strategies is a key to developing consensus and support for resiliency-based project.
Partners, including the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and the Center for Coastal Studies, will develop new technical information to broaden the understanding of Cape Cod’s vulnerability to climate adaptation. This research will be incorporated into the tool and public outreach.
“This grant will help Cape Cod prepare for the inevitable challenges of sea level rise on our coastline, our aquifer and our ecosystems,” APCC Executive Director Ed DeWitt said. “Resilience is all about our ability to spring back. It is not about changing the natural beauty and essence of Cape Cod. This project will identify opportunities to restore the Cape's natural environment so that communities and ecosystems are more resilient. “
The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research reserve will provide facilitation for the outreach program. WBNERR and the Commission have collaborated around public outreach and facilitation in the past, most recently during the 2015 OneCape Summit on water quality planning.
“You do not have to look very far to find examples of how Cape Cod is vulnerable to the impacts from storms, sea level rise and erosion,” said Tonna-Marie Rogers Surgeon, WBNERR’s Coastal Training Program Coordinator. “Rather than being reactive, communities and decision-makers must begin to do everything they can to get ahead of the curve with how they plan, prepare, respond and adapt to these threats.”
At the end of the grant and pilot project, the Commission will deliver a fully-developed tool and stakeholder process that can be adapted and transferred for use by other coastal communities. Phase 1 work is scheduled to begin March 1.
Barnstable County/Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, the Woods Hole Sea Grant, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sea Grant published the Massachusetts Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards. From the "Acknowledgments" section of the handbook:
"This handbook was developed as a cooperative project among the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Barnstable County, and the two Massachusetts Sea Grant programs, MIT Sea Grant (MITSG) and Woods Hole Sea Grant (WHSG). A key priority of this project partnership is to increase the resiliency of coastal communities to natural hazards. One major component of strong communities is enhancing individual resilience and recognizing that adjustments to day-to-day living are necessary. This book is designed to promote individual resilience, thereby creating a fortified community.…It is our hope that the information contained within this handbook, which is in part a compilation from numerous publications associated with natural hazards and hazard mitigation, will be widely used and adopted by homeowners in Massachusetts and the region."
The Commission assists with project design and implementation, seeks out funding and supports requests for projects with merit, and coordinates projects involving multiple stakeholders related to coastal and marine resources. Examples of past projects in this department include:
development of a Model Bylaw for Effectively Managing Coastal Floodplain Development (December 2009), for adoption by coastal communities
development of 'risk and vulnerability assessment' maps for Cape Cod towns
compilation of a Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan for Barnstable County (March 2010) for approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA; mitigation planning, outreach, and educational activities continue as funds allow and in coordination with the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee. See also the Commission's Emergency Preparedness Handbook, first published in 2004.)
taking an inventory and creating maps indicating tidal restrictions in each Cape Cod town, resulting in the Cape Cod Atlas of Tidally Restricted Salt Marshes in 2001
monitoring the Boston-based operation of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority sewage discharge, which releases an average of 370 million gallons per day of treated effluent into the waters of Massachusetts Bay. The Cape Cod Commission works with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and other highly regarded scientists interested in the possible effects of the outfall pipe on the bays systems and tracking nutrient inputs from the MWRA outfall
Cape Cod Cooperative Extension (Barnstable County)