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MARCO and NWF collaborate to remove barriers for practitioners in the field of coastal resilience

Partners are working to support the use of natural and nature-based features (NNBF) to enhance coastal resilience with funding from a Hurricane Sandy grant facilitated by the North Atlantic LCC.

It’s not hard to understand the logic behind using natural and nature-based features (NNBF) to address problems resulting from sea-level rise such as flooding and erosion.

By mimicking features that form naturally within coastal systems, like dunes and reefs, NNBF are designed to work with physical, biological, geological, and chemical processes along the coast, rather than against them.

But while these approaches seem like they would be a natural fit, they don’t always match the human dimensions of a particular site.

From monitoring to permitting to communicating with landowners, coastal decision makers face a range of practical barriers when mounting efforts to respond to coastal threats through NNBF.

Now with funding from a Hurricane Sandy grant facilitated by the North Atlantic LCC, partners at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) are trying to propose multiple solutions in order to advance the work of practitioners on the front lines of coastal resilience.

The first step is to figure out exactly what barriers they face. Over several months, the project team conducted a series of interviews with practitioners, permitting agencies, and contractors to identify, inventory, and categorize significant challenges to implementing NNBF in the Mid-Atlantic (from New York to Virginia).

Project Manager Kaity Goldsmith of MARCO explained that the interviews not only helped them understand barriers from the perspective of people working on the ground, but also made it clear that people in different parts of the region face different kinds of barriers.

Based on this realization, MARCO and NWF organized two separate workshops to target separate challenges within the Mid-Atlantic region, each designed to describe the regulatory and funding realities for NNBF projects in each state, and to foster a community of practice to inform and support the application of these approaches. 

On June 15, they held a workshop in Richmond, Virginia, and on June 28, they held a workshop in New York City, New York.

The first workshop focused on the three major types of barriers identified by practitioners in Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland - project monitoring, permitting, and communicating with private landowners - while the second focused on barriers specific to New York and New Jersey - site assessment and project monitoring, permitting, and project design standards.

North Atlantic LCC Coastal Resilience Coordinator Megan Tyrrell attended the New York workshop, and said she was impressed by the range of solutions proposed during break-out discussions. "My hope is that by gathering people together in these workshops and keeping the discussions alive, we can promote substantial progress in NNBF implementation," she said. "By promoting standard metrics and assessment methods, we can insure the lessons learned from each project will roll up to a bigger picture for NNBF as a whole."

The next phase in the project will involve identifying actions that can be taken to reconcile these kinds of differences in order to help move the community of practice forward. The recommendations will be synthesized within a final report that will be disseminated through MARCO and NWF partner networks to practitioners across the Mid-Atlantic region, and maybe beyond.

“We are realizing that more than just Mid-Atlantic issues, many of these issues are cross-cutting and apply to other regions of the Atlantic coast,” said Goldsmith. “So it may be worthwhile for this information to be spread beyond the MARCO region.”

Read more about reducing coastal risks using NNBF from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

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