A Coastal Community of Practice

In 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 39 percent of the U.S. population lived in counties directly on a shoreline. By 2020, NOAA anticipates that number to grow by eight percent. Further, in an increasingly global economy, coastal communities provide harbors for commerce and trade that inland communities are more and more reliant upon.

With nearly half of the nation's population living along the shore, it's important for coastal communities to begin planning for the circumstances associated with climate change, natural disasters, and aging infrastructure—especially as they continue to grow and make investments. Here at Dewberry, we've developed a coastal community of practice that works with communities to define what's normal for them, assess their greatest threats and vulnerabilities, and then help them develop an affordable plan to address these issues.


Coastal Resilience is Not Just for Post-Disaster Solutions

While we have a great deal of experience in assisting communities following a storm event or disaster, coastal resilience is unique in that many threats and risks are slow building, such as sea level rise. When intense rain occurs in coastal communities in low-lying, urban areas, they experience flooding due to tidal influence coupled with stormwater infrastructure that was designed for conditions decades earlier. These events are occurring more frequently and with greater impact. Even though damage may be just as severe as a 100-year flood, these events typically are not eligible for federal disaster relief programs if they are not declared disasters. Communities can't simply retreat from the coast to escape these everyday nuisances due to the amount of investments they've put in to the area and are now looking for creative, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions. This is where our coastal resilience expertise can truly prove beneficial.


No Two Communities are Exactly the Same

We classify coastal resilience projects into nine different categories listed below because, while all these projects are along a shoreline, their issues, threats, and risks can be vastly different.

  1. Ports and intermodal
  2. Waterfront structures, design, and evaluation
  3. Coastal processes, geomorphology, sediment budget analysis, and shoreline management planning
  4. Shoreline and estuarine habitat restoration
  5. Numerical modeling and analysis
  6. Hazard analysis and mapping
  7. Climate change, sea level rise, and adaptation/resilience planning
  8. Hazard mitigation
  9. Stormwater/green infrastructure

coastal community resilience

After classifying and understanding each unique coastal community, we begin the planning process. This involves various vulnerability assessments, modeling, map updates, benefit-cost analyses, and outreach and engagement with stakeholders. The next steps are implementation and program management, where we assist communities in execution.

A Multidisciplinary Effort

We rely on our multidisciplinary team of coastal engineers and scientists, urban planners, hazard modeling experts, geospatial analysts, climate change and sustainability experts, architects, capital planners, and community facilitators to not only develop strategies, but assist in the implementation process. An example of a project we completed along the eastern shore of Staten Island, New York, required a number of experts across our service lines. On this project, we helped design a conceptual flood protection system by taking into account sea level rise and a mix of natural and structural solutions to protect wastewater treatment plant infrastructure and the surrounding environment. Our water resources, coastal, geotechnical, civil, and environmental expertise enabled us to help develop an integrated approach to mitigate flooding effects from coastal storm surge and rainfall, and provide options for flood protection resilience due to future climate change.

While it's impossible to determine every risk a community may face, it's important to understand the cost and consequences of not taking action to the known threats and risks. I'm confident in our multidisciplinary approach towards coastal resilience, and truly believe that our customized framework gives clients the tools, services, and specialized expertise they may need as they work to create a resilient community.

  • John Hoffman
    John Hoffman
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