Catalyzing Nature-Based Coastal Flood Mitigation and Adaptation

Catalyzing Nature-Based Coastal Flood Mitigation and Adaptation

client FEMA Region IX and The Nature Conservancy instructors Meg Caldwell, Janet Martinez, Anne Siders
deliverables Policy Report; Legal Memoranda; Oral Briefing number of students students (Law and Environmental Engineering)
deadline Winter 2015 quarters offered Offered: Winter


Recently, several perilous and costly flood events have raised public awareness of the threats posed by coastal and riverine floods nationally. It is likely that with climate change, the frequency of heavy precipitation will increase in some areas over the 21st century, and that the return interval of flood events will decrease, greatly increasing overall flood risk. Traditionally, flood mitigation has occurred through the use of hard engineering – seawalls, revetments and levees. However, natural habitats and ecosystems also offer significant, and often overlooked and undervalued protections in mitigating or buffering flood hazards. Hazard mitigation plans and conservation project plans very rarely explicitly recognize the protective value of natural habitats, even though this value has been well documented. Moreover, hazard mitigation agents and environmental conservation organizations seldom work together, although recent catastrophic events highlight why it would make sense to do so.

Students work closely with FEMA Region IX (FEMA) and The Nature Conservancy in California (TNC) to develop a paradigm for helping those organizations work together to promote nature-based flood mitigation. Students will help (a) identify features of the Monterey coastal region where there is both high flood risk and conservation value; (b) design a nature-based strategy for risk reduction, which could include managed retreat and/or other mitigation/adaption tactics; (c) identify available resources/programs/incentives for and barriers to implementation at the local, state and federal levels; (d) design a process for enabling the community to avail themselves of these resources; and (e) comment on how laws, regulations and programs could be changed to better facilitate nature-based flood risk reduction. Students will assist these organizations in analyzing existing laws and policies to propose possible innovations (institutional, legal, financial, etc.) to advance and accelerate the use of natural systems in coastal adaptation beyond the study area.

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Clients & Deliverables




Students worked closely with The Nature Conservancy in California and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Region IX, to develop cooperative strategies to promote nature-based flood mitigation. Focusing on the Monterey coastal region as a case study, students (1) analyzed the laws, regulations, and programs related to nature-based flood risk, (2) designed a nature-based strategy for risk reduction, (3) identified associated implementation incentives and barriers, and (4) helped connect the local community to local, state, and federal mitigation and adaptation resources.