In 2011, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GOMC) received funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Climate and Societal Interactions Program (CSI) to collaborate with the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) to examine innovative municipal approaches to climate change adaptation in the coastal zone of the Northeast and Bay of Fundy. The two-year project, Stimulate Innovation and Increase the Pace of Municipal Responses to a Changing Climate in the Coastal Zone of the Northeast and Bay of Fundy, will be completed in August, 2013. The research and outreach for the project was conducted by the following partners: the Marine Affairs Institute, a partnership of Roger Williams University School of Law, Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program, and University of Rhode Island; Blue Urchin; StormSmart Coasts Network; and Clean Air-Cool Planet.
The work was conducted because coastal ecosystems and the built-environment are being impacted by a changing climate. In 2010, NROC and GOMC conducted a climate change needs assessment for the region extending from the Bay of Fundy to Long Island Sound. A top priority was to stimulate innovation and increase the pace of municipal responses to a changing climate. The rationale was that since the vast majority of land use decisions in this region are made at the local level, working directly with coastal municipalities on climate change adaptation is the most expedient way to make the nation’s coasts more resilient and hazards-ready.
Coastal municipalities are on the front-lines and need to accelerate their efforts to adapt their land use laws, infrastructure (e.g., roads, wastewater treatment, public facilities, etc.), policies, and programs to these changing environmental conditions. There is a growing appreciation that the nation’s coasts and people are threatened by the increased frequency and severity of coastal storms. Progressive adaptation work is underway at the local level; documenting current efforts and funding new projects promotes the advancement of best practices.