Climate Adaptation at the Local Scale: Using Federal Climate Adaptation Policy Regimes to Enhance Climate Services
1. Introduction and Background
2. Technical Approach
3. Policy Regimes Defined
4. Do Federal Policies Influence Climate Adaptation at the Local Scale?
5. How Do Federal Climate Adaptation Policy Regimes Drive and Enable Local Adaptation Initiatives?
- Avalon, New Jersey developed a Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Strategy driven partially by the need to reduce flood insurance premiums due to a high rating under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Avalon comprehensive strategy also included beach nourishment and creation of a system of breakwaters and protective dunes, enabled in part by planning, technical assistance, and subsidization by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maintenance of the artificial dune system is conducted in compliance with a Corps of Engineers ‘dune template’. Avalon’s actions were the subject of high-profile recognition in the form of a Hurricane Mitigation Award, sponsored in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But in an interesting twist, city officials note that dune maintenance activities are constrained due to the presence of a federally listed endangered species (piping plover), subject to protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services under the Endangered Species Act.
- In Spartanburg, South Carolina, a major initiative was driven by a requirement to update a FEMA All-Hazards Plan, and to do so in a manner that maintained compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wastewater regulations. This two-pronged planning process was enabled through use of EPA-developed analytical and decision-support tools and was promoted to local stakeholders through an EPA outreach program called WaterSense. The planning process was enabled through application of U.S. Global Change Research Program future scenarios.
- In the Southwest Crown region of Montana, a coalition of local governments and stakeholders conducted a major forest restoration initiative that included forest thinning and prescribed burns to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. This activity was conducted pursuant to a periodic U.S. Forest Service Forest Management Plan update process and subject to Council on Environmental Quality guidance and applicable provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act.
- The El Paso, Texas Water Utility worked in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to design and construct a desalinization facility on the grounds of Fort Bliss. The initiative was driven in part by EPA Stormwater Master Planning requirements and the need to maintain compliance with Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. Since the facility is sited on a federal property, design activities were overseen by the Corps of Engineers and enabled by the U.S. Geological Survey through development of specialized hydrological modeling capabilities. Planning and development activities were subject to the National Environmental Policy Act.
- Non-prescriptive: For the most part, the federal climate adaptation policy regime does not impose specific actions or outcomes on units of local government. With respect to climate adaptation, it mandates no methods, tools, or strategic orientations. Except for NFIP rate determinations, it does not designate enforceable actions or measures. Unlike the environmental protection, resource management, and disaster response statutes from which it is derived, it includes no standards, minimum requirements, or technological stipulations.
- “Situational” in its applicability [10,27]: Adaptation initiatives driven or enabled through the federal policy regime do not necessarily apply to all jurisdictions in the same way. Rather, contingencies and circumstances determine the degree to which governance models, experienced extreme events, or anticipated changes in climate parameters will impact resources or service streams addressed through a given policy or approach to governance.
- De-centered: Local scale adaptation initiatives are not coordinated among cognizant agencies or framed for consistency by means of an overarching strategy or vision. As already emphasized, adaptive governance by local entities is derivative to the original mission of nearly all regime components.
- Scope-limited application of existing policy tools: Local scale adaptation initiatives enabled by federal policy tend not to be synoptic or expansive in nature. Quite the opposite. Limited by the scope of the authorizing statute or program, adaptation initiatives tend merely to operationalize a policy provision or modify a particular service stream or sphere of activity (e.g., planning process, permit renewal, grant review process). Local adaptation initiatives tend to be operationalized by means of familiar tools of local governance such as ordinances, permits, bond issues, easements and property buy-outs, utility fees, comprehensive plans, disaster mitigation plans, zoning, and community or municipal staff capacity-building.
6. Some Implications for the Ongoing Enterprise of Climate Services
7. Analytical Limitations and Potential Research Needs
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Case Study Community||Description of Profiled Action||Associated Federal Policy||Partner Organizations|
|Avalon, New Jersey||Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Strategy: Developed several physical shoreline barriers, acquired undeveloped land, limited development, and created and maintained shorefront dunes.||U.S. Army CoE beach nourishment and subsidized construction and maintenance of protective seawall and breakwater; FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) ratings drive development ordinances||Borough government agencies, federal agencies|
|Baltimore, Maryland||Integration of Climate Change Adaptation into a FEMA All-Hazard Mitigation Plan: Added a climate risk and vulnerability assessment into an existing Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan.||Required update of FEMA All-Hazard Mitigation Plan using FEMA “Hazus-Multi-Hazards” tool and NOAA data||City government agencies, federal agencies, citizen advisory commissions, public-private resiliency hubs|
|Boston, Massachusetts||Climate Change and Resiliency Checklist: Mandate that climate change be considered in city approval process for large new developments and renovation projects.||Process informed using National Climate Assessment scenarios; compliance with FEMA floodplain mapping stipulations necessary for permitting of new development||City government agencies, federal agencies, public-private partnership|
|Chula Vista, California||Cool Roofs Ordinance and Shade Tree Policy: Implemented a shade tree policy and cool roofs ordinance to address raising temperatures in the San Diego region.||Recipient of 2014 EPA Climate Leadership Award||City government agencies, local foundation, state government agencies, public utility, collaborative association of local governments|
|Cleveland, Ohio||Neighborhood Action Toolkit and Associated Fund: Augmented existing neighborhood revitalization initiative to help vulnerable neighborhoods increase adaptive capacity and anticipate a climate-altered future.||Financial support through HHS Community Economic Development Grant||City government agencies, community development corporation, citizen advisory committee, private enterprises designated as ‘community assets’, federal agencies, collaborative fund|
|El Paso County, Texas||Inland Desalination Facility: Due in part to projected climate change, the County planned and developed a desalination plant to manage stormwater runoff and augment water supplies.||Public-private partnership to develop the desalination facility involved Department of Defense though siting on Fort Bliss. Design of the facility was enabled in part by USGS technical support. Actions driven by EPA Stormwater Master Planning and need to maintain compliance with Clean Water Act regulations. Siting on the grounds of a federal facility necessitated assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act.||Federal agencies, county government departments, state government agencies, city government|
|Flagstaff, Arizona||Watershed Protection Project: Passed USD 10 million bond to reduce catastrophic fire risk on nearby U.S. Forest Service lands.||Project conducted in accordance with USDA Forest Service Forest Management Plans, and subject to the National Environmental Policy Act||Federal government agencies, state government agencies, city government, Native American tribal nation|
|Fort Collins, Colorado||Water Demand Management: Revised Water Supply and Demand Management policy to better prepare for severe drought and reduce water use through conservation and increased storage measures.||Expansion of reservoir storage capacity requires permit from Corps of Engineers.||Public utility, city government, federal agencies|
|Grand Rapids, Michigan||Vital Streets and Sidewalks Spending Guidelines: Developed guidelines and implemented tax support to improve stormwater management with green infrastructure.||Initiative subject to EPA stormwater management regulations||City government, state government agencies, public utility, citizen commission, regional council of governments, federal agencies|
|Miami-Dade County, Florida||Integrating Climate Adaptation into Comprehensive Development Master Plan: Plan updates require county departments to consider potential climate change impacts for approval of capital improvement projects.||Initiative subject to EPA stormwater management regulations; partnership with USGS to develop hydrological modeling tools unique to Miami-Dade circumstances||County government agencies, federal agencies, county advisory task force, regional council of county governments|
|Mobile County, Alabama||Oyster Reef Restoration: Federal grant monies provided support for a public-private effort to restore oyster reefs to provide protection against storm surge and raising seas.||American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant issued through NOAA||Federal agencies, county government agencies, non-profit funding, local chapter of national NGO|
|Norfolk, Virginia||Coastal Resilience Strategy: Flood and coastal zone ordinance revised to require that new structures have at least 3-foot freeboard.||Initiative pursued to reduce FEMA NFIP ratings; financial support sought through Disaster Resilience grants.||City government; federal agencies, local NGOs, civic leagues, citizen commission|
|Oakland, California||Climate Action Coalition: Formation of a diverse coalition that developed a strategy to address sea level rise through a social justice lens.||Financial support through Department of Housing and Urban Development grant programs||City government, federal agencies, local NGOs and foundations, community-based organizations, public utility|
|Seattle, Washington||Mainstreaming Climate Change into Internal Planning and Decision Making: Public utility requires climate change impacts to be considered in strategic planning, division-level planning, capital investment evaluation, and day-to-day operations.||Worked with a NOAA-funded research consortium to develop climate-impacted water supply scenarios; utility initiatives subject to EPA drinking water and stormwater management regulations||Public utility, city government, utility customer panel, federal agencies|
|Southwest Crown, Montana||Forest Restoration: Forest thinning and prescribed fires used to reduce risk of catastrophic fire.||USDA Forest Service Forest Management Plans, National Environmental Policy Act||Public-private partnership, federal agencies, town governments, state government, Native American tribes, county governments, citizen councils, collaborative organization|
|Spartanburg, South Carolina||Mainstreaming Climate Change: Initiative to integrate climate change consideration into utility operations, management practices, program delivery, and culture.||Initiative embedded within FEMA All Hazard Plan update, subject to EPA wastewater regulations. Utility partnered with EPA to develop a resilience options evaluation tool (CREAT); and enhanced public outreach through EPA “WaterSense” program. Future climate conditions were assessed in part through review of U.S. GCRP reports||Public utility, county government, city government, federal agencies|
|Tulsa, Oklahoma||Acquisition and Relocation: Program to acquire repeatedly flooded properties and convert into parks and other public uses.||Project was framed to exceed FEMA NFIP strictures and partially funded through a FEMA Project Impact grant.||County government, city government, community-based organizations, local non-profit organizations|
|Policy or Programmatic Vehicle|
(Statutory Authorization, Year of Enactment)
|Implementing Agency||Degree of Focus on Climate Change Adaptation||Influence on Community-Level Governance|
|Stormwater master planning|
(Clean Water Act, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, 1972)
|U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)||One of many factors included in guidance materials||Serves as a driving influence|
|Stormwater discharge permitting and regulations|
(Clean Water Act, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, 1972)
|EPA||One of many factors that may be considered in evaluating a permit application||Serves as a driving influence|
|State Revolving Fund (SRF) financial assistance for drinking water and POTW development|
(Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974)
|EPA||One of many factors that may be considered in making SRF Capitalization Grant awards||Serves to enable|
|Climate leadership award||EPA||Promotion and outreach initiative focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation||Serves to enable|
|Technical Assistance to Water Utilities||EPA||Climate change adaptation is one of many factors addressed through Agency research activities||Serves to enable|
|‘Watersense’ program||EPA||Climate change is one of many factors considered in this outreach program||Serves to enable|
|All hazard mitigation plans|
(Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000)
|Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)||One of many factors that may be assessed in plan approval||Serves as a driving influence|
|Floodplain designations, mapping, and flood insurance ratings|
(Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012; National Flood Insurance Act of 1968)
|FEMA||One of many factors that may be considered under a designation||Serves as a driving influence|
|Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants|
(National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 and Department of Homeland Security (Annual) Appropriations Act)
|FEMA||One of many factors that may be considered as a basis for award||Serves to enable|
|Atmospheric research||Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)||Explicit and stipulated, development of climate-related data, information, and tools is central to mission||Serves to enable|
|National Weather Service||NOAA||Explicit and stipulated, development of climate-related data, information, and tools is central to mission||Serves to enable|
|Coastal resilience grants|
(Coastal Zone Management Act, 1972)
|NOAA||One of many factors that may be considered as a basis for award||Serves to enable|
|Coastal zone planning|
(Coastal Zone Management Act, 1972)
|NOAA, Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management||One of many factors that may be assessed during agency and stakeholder reviews of plan||Serves both as driving and/or enabling influence|
|Reservoir siting approval and permitting|
(Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899; Clean Water Act of 1972)
|United States Army, Corps of Engineers (CoE)||One of many factors that may be considered in a permitting decision||Serves as a driving influence|
|Dredge and fill permitting|
(Clean Water Act of 1972)
|CoE||One of many factors that may be considered in a permitting decision||Serves as a driving influence|
|Operations and facility support||CoE||One of many factors that may be relevant to operations, planning, and budget implementation||Serves to enable|
|Integrated forest management plans|
(National Forest Management Act of 1976)
|United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service||Revised at least every 15 years, NEPA Guidance requires that Forest Management Plans address climate change impacts||Serves as a driving influence|
(Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988)
|Department of Housing and Urban Development||Eligible to communities that declared disasters in 2011–2013, grant resources are available to address a variety of threats, including climate change||Serves to enable|
|Water supply and hydrologic research||U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)||Agency charter authorizes water supply, hydrologic, and related areas of research, all of which may be subject to climate change impacts. Climate services stipulated under Agency workplans for USGCRP and related programs.||Serves to enable|
|Federal Environmental Impact Assessment Process|
(National Environmental Policy Act of 1968)
|Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)||Federal actions and programs require assessment of environmental impacts, including actions that might be subject to climate change impacts||Serves as a driving influence|
|Guidance on Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change|
(National Environmental Policy Act, 1968)
|CEQ (and implementing agencies)||NEPA guidance directs agencies to include climate change impacts in their Environmental Impact Assessments. Focus of the guidance is on GHG emissions reduction, adaptation not central but applicability to land use decisions makes climate services relevant||Serves as a driving influence|
|U.S. Global Change Research Program|
(Global Change Research Act of 1990)
|Thirteen agencies, coordinated by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy||Program conducts and sponsors a wide range of climate-related research, with periodic reports that address “Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation”. Program has a clear mandate to develop “decision aids”||Enables vulnerability actions and informs development of climate services|
|Community Economic Development Grant Program||Department of Health and Human Services||Not stipulated, but may be considered as basis for award and subsequent reporting||Serves to enable|
|Agency Annual Appropriation Acts||All agencies||Agencies are sometimes directed and funded to conduct adaptation—or resiliency—related actions||May enable actions for municipalities partnering or otherwise interacting with federal entities or facilities|
|Endangered Species Act||All agencies||As applicable, Endangered Species Management Plans may be required to address impacts due to anticipated climate change||May serve to drive or constrain adaptation initiatives|
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Herrick, C.; Vogel, J. Climate Adaptation at the Local Scale: Using Federal Climate Adaptation Policy Regimes to Enhance Climate Services. Sustainability 2022, 14, 8135. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14138135
Herrick C, Vogel J. Climate Adaptation at the Local Scale: Using Federal Climate Adaptation Policy Regimes to Enhance Climate Services. Sustainability. 2022; 14(13):8135. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14138135Chicago/Turabian Style
Herrick, Charles, and Jason Vogel. 2022. "Climate Adaptation at the Local Scale: Using Federal Climate Adaptation Policy Regimes to Enhance Climate Services" Sustainability 14, no. 13: 8135. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14138135