UEP Colloquium: Climate Change and Community Vulnerability

Samuel Bell: Hazard Mitigation Through Planning

UEP alum, former FEMA hazard mitigation specialist and current planner at GZA Geoenvironmental spoke at this weeks UEP Colloquium about mitigation and resiliency planning in New England cities and towns. In New England, a heavily coastal region, Bell’s work has focused on coastal resilience and preparing for storm surges and flooding. Bell differentiated mitigation planning from resiliency planning: mitigation is more regulatory based while resiliency is community based, mitigation looks at all hazards while resiliency has looked at coastal hazards, mitigation focuses on current risks while resiliency works on future risks, not necessarily any one time.

Unfortunately for many towns and cities, funding for mitigation planning doesn’t tend to materialize until after disaster strikes. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association offers coastal ecosystem and coastal resiliency grants. FEMA offers the Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant, Hazard Mitigation Grant, and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant. State grants cover green infrastructure, coastal community resilience, wetlands restoration, and dam, levee and foreshore protection and removal. There are municipalities all over New England applying to these grants. Bell listed off a hazard mitigation plan in Somerset, MA, powering the water pumping station in the Cotuit, MA Fire District, restoring tidal flow and restoring shellfish habitat in Gloucester, MA, and restoring salt marshes in Hyannis, MA.

Bell has worked extensively on coastal resilience in Stratford, CT. There, he tells people to think of a 100 year weather event over the life of a mortgage. A 100 year weather event, such as a flood, is one that is expected to have a 1% chance of happening in a given year. However, at year ten that chance rises to 10%, 14% after fifteen years, 18% after twenty years and 26% after thirty years. I’m not sure why this isn’t more well known, as people need to ensure homes for long periods and the strength of 100 year weather events become increasingly damaging. Their work has used Hazus software to model physical damage, economic loss, and social and environmental impacts of such an event.

The next UEP Colloquium will be on December 4 in the Crane Room at Paige Hall, 12-1pm and will feature visiting scholar on shrinking cities Maxwell Hart. See you then!