University of Wisconsin Sea Grant lands coastal storms grantMassive storms like the one that pounded Superior in June bring chaos and destruction to Great Lakes coastal communities.
Massive storms like the one that pounded Superior in June bring chaos and destruction to Great Lakes coastal communities. Using a three-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Coastal Storms Program, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute hopes to bring some order to fight that chaos — in a form of an outreach coordinate to integrate the resources from across NOAA to help communities better prepare for dangerous storms and recover from them after they hit.
“This is a valuable opportunity for us to work with the NOAA Coastal Storms Program, bringing on a person who can help coordinate those efforts on the Great Lakes,” said Phil Moy, UW Sea Grant’s assistant director for research. “We’re fortunate to have been tapped to receive these funds, and we feel it’s a good partnership moving forward.”
Three Sea Grant programs are involved in the overall NOAA Coastal Storms grant. In addition to UW Sea Grant’s coastal storms outreach coordinator, Minnesota Sea Grant will hire a coastal storms specialist in its Minneapolis office, and Ohio Sea Grant will eventually administer a program of small grants related to coastal storms resiliency.
Moy said his program anticipates hiring a part-time coordinator before the end of the year, bumping that position to full time in 2013. The position is likely to be based in UW Sea Grant’s Green Bay field office, and may also incorporate a water quality and habitat restoration focus. It will also continue as a full-time position beyond the duration of the grant.
The new coastal storms coordinator will work closely with groups like the Madison-based Association of State Floodplain Mangers and the Chicago-based American Planning Association to leverage and make coastal communities aware of existing resources through NOAA’s Coastal Storms Program. Specific projects included in the grant include holding a train-the-trainer workshop for outreach specialists, conducting a Great Lakes coastal community needs assessment, a review of local government plans that address coastal flood hazard resilience and developing decision-support tools that bolster adaptive management strategies.
“NOAA is looking for us to help them get the word out that they have these resources that help people in coastal communities improve their resilience to coastal storms,” said Moy.
David Hart, UW Sea Grant’s coastal communities outreach specialist, pointed to the coastal hazards resilience index that came out of a NOAA Coastal Storms Program project on the Gulf Coast, as an example of the type of tool that the new outreach coordinator could adapt for local officials in the Great Lakes region.
“The bigger mission and picture is that it will help people use NOAA information to be better prepared for coastal storms,” Hart said. “In our case, I think there’ll be a strong flood inundation perspective, as well as stormwater management and developing green-based infrastructure.”
Coordinating with existing groups and resources will be key to the position’s success, said Hart. For instance, the new coordinator will be asked to work with ASFPM and the NOAA Digital Coast Partnership, a group of organizations that share coastal data tools and training material, to expand the Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Guidebook, an evolving set of online tools that local officials can use to prepare their communities for coastal storms and the ongoing effects of climate change on coastal water levels.
“We’ve got some good skills to build on in Wisconsin, but it’s really important to acknowledge that this won’t just be an effort in our state,” said Hart. “This is a real regional effort. We have a strong legacy in Wisconsin of promoting comprehensive planning, but we have a lot to learn about how to implement effective plans to promote resilience to coastal hazards.”