Many communities in Delaware have made progress in evaluating, planning, and executing initiatives to create flood-ready communities and prepare for climate change and sea level rise. The City of Lewes, Town of Frederica, and City of Delaware City are “best practice” examples of jurisdictions that have evaluated risks, developed plans, and adopted regulations to provide a legacy of protecting people, places, and communities.
City of Lewes
In 2011, a Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan for the City of Lewes was prepared by Delaware Sea Grant, ICLEI‐Local Governments for Sustainability, and the University of Delaware Sustainable Coastal Communities in collaboration with the City’s pilot project subcommittee of its Mitigation Planning Team and workshop participants. The plan was developed to “improve public safety, minimize losses, and create greater city‐wide resilience.” It includes an overview of current natural hazards, an assessment of the City’s current and future vulnerabilities, strategies for addressing vulnerabilities, and ways to implement such strategies.
The Lewes planning team assessed critical facilities’ societal, economic, and environmental exposure to flooding. In considering critical facilities, major roads were identified that would need to be used for evacuations or those that provide key access to other critical facilities, such as the local hospital and medical center. The societal analysis used U.S. Census and American Community Survey data to illustrate certain vulnerable populations such as those with a disability and those who do not own a vehicle. In looking at flood risks to the local economy, the assessment overlaid a map of the floodplain with locations of major hubs of economic activity. This economic vulnerability assessment can help local businesses understand their own risks and encourage them to work with the community to reduce such vulnerabilities and adapt to sea level rise and other hazards. Lastly, Lewes assessed its key environmental resources that could protect against flood risks. For instance, although the Lewes Sewage Treatment Plant, identified as a critical infrastructural facility, is vulnerable to flooding, there is natural salt marsh located near the facility to protect it from flooding. After conducting the vulnerability assessment, workshop participants prioritized vulnerabilities that were highly sensitive and that had low adaptive capacity, including the City’s water system, residences, and infrastructure. With such a plan in place, the City is better positioned to receive grant funding for implementation projects. This plan also provides a consistent focus and commitment to adapting climate change and natural hazards such as flooding that can withstand changes in leadership of the municipality.
Additionally, the City of Lewes’ draft Comprehensive Plan update includes a discussion of flood risks and adaptation planning. The City notes updates in its codes to regulate development in floodplains such as the required elevation of new buildings to be protected from damage in the 100-year floodplain. Building upon the City’s Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan, the comprehensive plan recommends the need to address critical facilities and infrastructure that are located in flood-prone areas and that flooding will be an increasingly severe and frequent threat to Lewes. As part of the update, the City includes retrofit strategies to address coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion, and inland flooding. These strategies range from raising major roads and evacuation routes above the floodplain to regulating new development to avoid building in anticipated flood-prone areas. To implement the many developed recommendations, the plan states that the City must work with the Board of Public Works and other agencies and entities such as the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA).
Town of Frederica
In its draft Comprehensive Plan update, the Town of Frederica includes a section regarding sea level rise vulnerabilities and adaptation. Sea level rise vulnerabilities and adaptation planning are also integrated throughout the plan, in sections such as: Future Land Use and Annexations, Utilities, Services, and Facilities, Transportation, Natural Resources, Community Character and Design, and Redevelopment. The Town uses potential sea level rise scenario mapping and public participation to identify flood vulnerabilities and hazards that will impact infrastructure, natural resources, and property. Vulnerabilities are grouped into topics such as Transportation, Land Use and Buildings, Waterfront Redevelopment Area, Growth Areas, and Other. The plan identifies specific roads, bridges, public facilities, residences, and other properties that are vulnerable to flooding. As a result of assessing vulnerabilities, the plan outlines three strategies for flood resiliency: conducting a comprehensive flood vulnerability/drainage study, preparing a Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, and updating planning documents and policies. In conducting the vulnerability study, the plan directs the Town to coordinate efforts with Kent County and DEMA. It also points to various funding and technical assistance sources. The Town highlights several needed updates to planning documents and policies including the Land Development Ordinance, the Flood Damage Reduction Ordinance, transportation policies, zoning, and master planning in order to incorporate sea level rise and flood adaptation measures.
City of Delaware City
The City of Delaware City crafted a Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Action Plan, in collaboration with a community task force, advisory committee, workshop participants, GIS specialists, and Delaware Sea Grant. The plan includes a vulnerability assessment, recommended strategies for climate change adaptation, and implementation suggestions. Strategies such as including sea level rise in planning documents, evaluating Delaware City’s infrastructural vulnerabilities, and identifying and funding drainage improvement projects were selected and prioritized with public input. Furthermore, strategies are divided into short-term, mid-term, and long-term actions to help achieve climate change and sea level rise resiliency. The implementation sections breaks down strategies to focus on actionable steps, administration and staffing, timeline, and financing.
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