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Combating Climate Change in our Local Communities

Written on: August 14th, 2017 in Coastal Training ProgramNERR

Jacob Filby, DNERR’s Communication and Policy Intern, writes about his work with the Resilient Community Partnership (RCP) and its initiative to assist communities like Slaughter Beach in response to climate change. RCP is a program through the Delaware Coastal Program aimed at providing planning, preparation, and mitigation techniques to communities in responses to climate change and sea level rise. Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor). 

Communication and Policy Intern Jacob Filby working the RCP event at Slaughter Beach.

Implementation of policies and strategies for combating climate change in Delaware communities has recently been spearheaded by the DNREC Delaware Coastal Program (DCP). The Coastal Training Program (CTP), through DCP, works with local townships threatened by flooding, sea level rise, coastal storms, and changing climate conditions. DCP formed the Resilient Community Partnership to help aid these communities and help them better prepare for the impacts of sea level rise and climate change.  This annual program, with funding assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seeks to improve the planning, preparation capabilities, and mitigation responses for coastal hazards. The first iteration of this partnership is with the Town of Slaughter Beach, where the CTP provided direct staffing, technical support, public outreach and training to support the community’s vulnerability assessment, prioritization, planning, and identification of adaptation practices.

Beginning in the spring of 2016, DCP partnered with the town of Slaughter Beach, with all of the research and planning culminating in a citywide workshop on July 22nd to share the results and future plan with the community.

Over 50 members of the Slaughter Beach community attended the RCP town workshop held July 22.

After weeks of preparation to inform the public of the workshop- done through emails, postcards, large signs posted throughout town, and a flashing memo from the local Fire Hall- over fifty members of Slaughter Beach attended. Considering the demographic is an elderly vacationer, the turnout for a Saturday morning meeting was fantastic. The lunch that was promised after the presentations was likely not as effective as the three signs driven into the ground on street corners.

Starting at 10AM, the residents were greeted by one dozen tables, each housing a topographical map of projected flooding or a member of state organizations: the Delaware Emergency Management Association, the Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Coastal Training Program. The tables were stocked with informational handouts, graphs of future temperature projections, leaflets for the table’s own branch specialties, and in the case of the table nestled away in the back corner of the Fire Hall, tickets for lunch that would be handed out after a survey was completed by the townsfolk. Before swarming to these displays, residents heard presentations from leaders of the DCP such as Danielle Swallow, alongside implementation discussion from planners at DelDOT, with all of this concluding with a message of confidence, underlined with urgency, from the Fire Hall chief Terry Jester.

Attendees had an opportunity to look at future flooding projection maps up-close and to ask experts questions.

The workshop began with an outline of the work done thus far by the DCP: a vulnerability assessment, determination of where sea level and accompanying flood levels would be in twenty years, and the proposal for alleviating the stress of these environmental factors on the community. Introduced by the DelDOT staff, the flashiest facet of the strategy was a real time flood warning system to be placed on the only two roads leading in to town: this will alert drivers of when flooding occurs as well as improving public safety by equipping residents with up to date information to inform their route planning. In addition, DelDOT is updating their smartphone app by incorporating the aforementioned roads into the state’s transportation system. All of this information will correspondingly be available on a radio station that updates rapidly, should conditions deteriorate. To conclude the workshop, the town was turned loose to inspect the tables, ask experts any questions about the data presented, or examine the list of secondary adaptation policies that may not have been discussed before turning in feedback forms about the workshop and RCP process as a whole.

Initially, it was a massive accomplishment to provide the public with the information required to become more resilient, not to mention the roll-out of the DelDot warning system and its app. Moving forward, what material is absorbed and adopted by the community will determine the success of the program. Feedback thus far has been considerably optimistic: The town has reached a general agreement on having learned a significant amount about climate conditions and flood mitigation techniques, coupled with an app available to them at all times that can determine road conditions in real time. With Slaughter Beach now having both tools and connections, the town is equipped to better withstand the effects of coastal hazards.

From here, the Coastal Training Program and the Resilient Community Partnership will travel north to New Castle County and assist in the same manner they did with Slaughter Beach to better prepare the county for changing climate in the state of Delaware.

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