Climate Adaptation Network (CAN) Webinar Discusses Collaborative Approaches To Building Resilience

In our recent report, Coastal Adaptation: A Framework for Governance and Funding to Address Climate Change, RPA identified a few major impediments to building resilience on both the regional and local scale, in our region’s 167 coastal cities, towns, villages and counties:

  • Planning and investments are reactive rather than proactive.
  • Most of the region’s smaller cities, towns and villages have limited capacity.
  • Coastal flooding is a regional problem, but most planning happens locally.
  • State coastal management programs leave several problems unaddressed.

One of the ways we are trying to address these issues is through the creation of a Climate Adaptation Network. The CAN was formed in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, to bring together elected officials and key planning and policy staff from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to discuss climate change resilience and adaptation activities being planned or executed within their communities. 

RPA recently hosted the inaugural Climate Adaptation Network (CAN) webinar. Participants joined from places large and small across the region including Toms River, New Jersey and Bridgeport, Connecticut, New York City, and Poquott, Long Island (whose population is 939.) The webinar discussed creative approaches to funding adaptation in local communities.

Through these webinars and other in-person meetings, the CAN offers opportunities for leaders and their staff to learn from each other across the region. It encourages cross-jurisdictional thinking to advance ideas, and inspires municipalities to find creative solutions in a current adaptation policy landscape that is slow, sporadic, and underfunded.  As the network grows, it will connect to other networks nationally, ensuring that we learn from professionals in different regions and explore innovative solutions that can be adapted to suit our region’s needs.It is the first step towards a more regional, collaborative approach to climate adaptation and funding that our region sorely needs.  

Here are some highlights from the recent Climate Adaptation Network webinar:

Marian Russo, Executive Director of the Village of Patchogue’s Community Development Agency, spoke to Patchogue’s experience securing various funding sources for a redesign of their Shorefront Park, a living shoreline project and critical public space in a relatively small, high-density community on the south shore of Long Island. The project tapped into funding from a water quality improvement grant, state habitat restoration funding, a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant, and funding from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Marian spoke to her sense of which funding sources are, and aren’t, attainable by communities like Patchogue, with small populations and limited administrative capacity, as well as how the project got buy-in from the community by emphasizing the park’s role as an improved recreational space, not just a buffer zone between the community and rising seas. Slides can be viewed here.

Andy Kricun, Executive Director and Chief Engineer of Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, followed, sharing best-practices as tested in Camden, NJ around energy infrastructure resilience and overall flood reduction, a holistic approach to increasing resilience, funded without raising utility rates. He spoke to the role of collaboration in funding these projects, in particular how the Camden Collaborative Initiative – a team of state and federal agencies, Rutgers University, and over 50 environmental non-profits – increased diversity of available funding sources for a pilot remediation/rain garden project at an old gas station and replications throughout the city. The suite of projects implemented by CCMUA used funding from a brownfield remediation grant, a low-interest, 30-year state revolving fund loan, and other sources. Slides can be viewed here.

The webinar with a Q&A session, which can be heard here

The projects, and Marian’s and Andy’s presentations, were thought-provoking and informative. This webinar offered the unique value of two presenters making connections between their projects despite their wholly different policy frameworks, community contexts, and toolboxes.

What’s next for CAN?

In early May, we’ll host a second webinar on implementing adaptation design. This remote convening will consider questions like: As designers draw up innovative solutions to and pursue design competitions around climate adaptation and mitigation on the coast, how can project teams facilitate not just idea generation but implementation? And how might adaptation concerns be incorporated into urban and landscape design more generally?

And later in the month, RPA will host the Network’s second annual convening, “Honest Conversations”, a forum to discuss the challenging issues around adaptation faced by municipalities, as well as potential solutions.

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