Mitigation’s “Green New Deal”: Nature-Based Solutions
Currently, two tropical systems are eyeing the United States (U.S.) Gulf Coast for near simultaneous landfall this week. In the West, California is dealing with significant drought, extreme heat, and escalating wildfires. Each year, storms and fires continue to intensify – both in frequency and magnitude. The impacts of climate variability and disaster activity further highlight the need for nationwide investments in resilience – including a holistic, sustainable approach to hazard mitigation – to reduce continued disaster-related damages and loss.
Nature-based solutions may be used in sustainable planning, design, environmental management, and engineering practices to incorporate a community’s natural features, landscape, or processes into the built environment to create a more resilient environment. The overarching goal of these projects is to provide more value to communities by mitigating hazards while also creating ecosystem benefits. This can ultimately improve a community’s quality of life and make it more attractive to new residents and businesses.
Nature-Based Solutions are categorized by both location and scale:
- Watershed and Landscape – These typically include large-scale practices that require long-term planning and coordination, including projects with interconnected systems of natural areas and open space. Examples: land conservation, greenways, wetland restoration and protection, stormwater parks and floodplain restoration
- Neighborhood or Site – These practices can often be built into a site, corridor, or neighborhood without requiring additional space. Examples: rain gardens, vegetated swales, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavement, tree canopy, tree trenches, and green streets.
- Coastal Areas – Projects that stabilize the shoreline, reduce erosion, and buffer the coast from storm impacts to support coastal resilience. Examples: coastal wetlands, oyster reefs, dunes, waterfront parks, and living shorelines
Integrated Approach to Hazard Mitigation
Planning and carrying out nature-based solutions can require an integrated approach to hazard mitigation. Since nature-based solutions provide a variety of co-benefits, a single project may be eligible for many different private, state, and federal grant programs. It is important to assess what types of nature-based projects would benefit your community, then identify available public funding opportunities, to include both federal and private investment. Additionally, pooling resources may be a cost-effective way to integrate nature-based solution practices into planned or ongoing capital improvement projects including creating or improving roads, streetscapes, stormwater management projects, parks, and parking areas. Throughout this process, cost savings may also be realized as nature-based solutions cost less than alternative investments – often lessening the necessity of standalone infrastructure projects and further reducing the expense of rebuilding and repairs after a disaster.
Nature Based Solutions in BRIC
In the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recent Building Resilience Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the agency encourages communities to consider environmentally friendly, green infrastructure solutions as eligible project types. While nature-based solutions have many hazard mitigation benefits, they can also enhance resilience by helping a community meet its social, environmental, and economic goals.
In FEMA’s BRIC NOFO, the agency outlines two evaluation criteria for BRIC projects: technical criteria (all or nothing scoring) and qualitative criteria (gradient scoring scales). The technical criteria specifically promote sustainability, giving sub-applicants the potential to secure an additional 10 points when proposed projects include nature-based solutions. In addition, if a project addresses infrastructure and has an increased non-federal cost share due to private investment or other pooled state, local, or private resources, a sub-applicant may earn an additional 25 points. As written, we think the use of nature-based solutions provides applicants a competitive advantage for BRIC funding prioritization. This critical funding will provide leaders across the country with a more integrated way to mitigate against the impacts of disaster; while also encouraging communities to invest in our nation’s long-term sustainability, security, and strength.
Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost.
Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.
Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.
Sara Harper is a civil engineer and certified floodplain manager with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, she was a project manager for Dewberry Engineers Inc., managing environmental and historic preservation compliance task orders for FEMA Region IX. Prior to Dewberry, she was a water resources engineer working on complex water systems in California, Oregon and Nevada for local, state, and federal interests.