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City Council Committee Briefed On Benefits Of Nature-Based Solutions To Climate Change

Wetland Preserve
North Florida Land Trust
Wetland Preserve

The Jacksonville City Council’s Special Committee on Resiliency is weighing the costs and benefits of pursuing nature-based solutions as members explore how best to defend the city against flooding, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change.

During Friday’s meeting, members of the Special Committee on Resiliency heard from experts who described how natural infrastructure, like salt marshes, oyster reefs, coral reefs, beach dunes and mangroves, offers flood protection and what funding opportunities are available for hazard risk projects.

Rod Braun, Climate and Coastal Resilience Program Manager for the Nature Conservancy in Florida, spoke about how natural infrastructure can decrease wave height and storm surge on top of providing benefits for coastal communities, like capturing and storing carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Coastal wetlands, for example, prevented an estimated $625 million in property damage during Hurricane Sandy, reducing damages by an average of 22% in over half of the affected areas.

Braun said it’s critical to preserve existing natural infrastructure and restore beneficial ecosystems.

“Coastal communities are really facing unprecedented levels of risk due to the onset of climate change and sea level rise and I would argue strongly that a lot of this risk, or at least some of that vulnerability, comes from the loss of our habitat, our degraded ecosystems, essentially,” he said.

The nature-based solutions that Braun is advocating for are just part of what he referred to as a “layered approach” needed to adequately address that risk.

Janan Reilly, a mitigation specialist for the Community Infrastructure Resilience Branch at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told members of the committee that if Jacksonville decides to pursue risk mitigation projects, including nature-based solutions, there are several grant programs that are available.

“FEMA is definitely getting more involved with nature-based solutions,” she said. “It’s increasingly being shown how effective nature-based solutions are, especially for coastal protection and risk protection. It’s definitely on our radar and something that everyone is asking about how we can incorporate nature-based solutions into FEMA’s hazard mitigation projects and insure that funding is going out the door for these types of projects.”

In fiscal year 2019, FEMA distributed more than $1.2 billion in hazard mitigation assistance grants and public assistance mitigation grants to states, tribes, and territories throughout the country.

 
Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.