Resilient Coastal Communities: Growing the Network and Building the Capacity of Local Leaders

In northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin, science based climate change information is not regularly considered in land management decisions, and professionals with climate change expertise are not part of the local decision making process. In addition, there are very few opportunities for private residential landowners to participate in the decision making process, which means they are often not part of the solution even though they own the majority (65%) of the land within the watershed. With funding from GLISA, the Alliance and our partners facilitated an adaptation planning process1 with over 50 local stakeholders to address the climate change knowledge gap that is putting over $7 million of federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) money to conserve Illinois’ coastal ravines at risk. Our planning resulted in local stakeholders prioritizing adaptation strategies they would help implement.

Prior to the adaptation planning process, local stakeholders focused almost exclusively on addressing stormwater impacts to ravines through end-of-pipe solutions (e.g. engineering bigger pipes and erosion control structures), often overlooking other possible solutions (e.g. reducing % of impervious surfaces). Through the planning process, stakeholders identified the need to address stormwater impacts by increasing on-site filtration and detention, and reducing percentage of impervious surfaces as a key strategy. They understood that due to climate change their communities will very likely continue to see increasing extreme storm events, increasing volumes of stormwater, and increasing ravine erosion, which puts the habitat restoration efforts, real property, and infrastructure at risk.

A needed next step to implement this key adaptation strategy requires significant engagement of private residential landowners and local decision makers like locally elected officials who control or influence how land is used. Organizing and motivating these key audiences was articulated as an outreach need in the adaptation plan, and is critical to achieving community-wide implementation of upstream stormwater management practices like green infrastructure. Currently, neither municipal staff nor local community groups have fully engaged these audiences in identifying actions can be taken both individually and collectively to increase the adaptive capacity of their community through implementation of green infrastructure BMPs. A few communities have started to take some first steps, and working to build their capacity and share their success and lessons learned with their neighboring communities, including ravine communities across the border in Wisconsin, is needed.

 

Project White Paper: PDF