Sea Safe Communities Certification Next Step for Coastal Adaptation

(Baton Rouge, LA) – The America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) is launching its Sea Safe Communities Certification (SSCC) program, responding to a growing need for coastal communities to counter the perceived stigma of risk that can impact economies and real estate values, financing, and public services. The new certification can instead strengthen communities through adaptation actions that can stabilize strong investment.

“This is about helping communities move beyond resiliency planning and into substantial action,” Val Marmillion, managing director of AWF, said. “The certification process is about living with water and building with nature to fortify economies and environments to ensure a viable future. As we celebrate National Estuary Week, the Sea Safe effort is a promising one for saving our estuarine environments and the communities that depend upon them.”

Through the Sea Safe program, the Foundation will assist and facilitate communities in utilizing existing natural and community assets to meet the criteria for certification. “Many communities have already started to establish priorities for action that will move them toward an adaptation plan,” Marmillion said. “This can be a game-changer that fortifies a community against dips in their economies due to climate change impacts like stronger and larger storms and sea level rise.”

“Business, trade, neighborhood, real estate, and civic associations have the most to lose and gain from adaptation to create added value for highest, middle and lowest income brackets,” Sidney Coffee, senior advisor to AWF, said. “Populations at risk will measure their futures by removing vulnerabilities to their quality of life and building public awareness around individual actions that warrant their certification as sea safe.”

After communities complete the Sea Safe program, they will be certified by the Foundation as a Sea Safe Community, making progress toward the adaptation necessary to prevent falling victim to future economic instability brought about by sea level rise.

A community’s priorities could include:

• Creating an adaptation plan with public and private input and strategies based on generational timelines;

• Designs for water storage, capture, stormwater collection, pumping and removal; enhancing community value through water integration in parks and recreational areas;

• Adaptation development that includes elevated housing and critical services, green roofs, walls, and gardens; developing residential and storm protection assets like solar power, storm windows, building foundations and elevations, all necessary to accommodate insurance underwriting

• Aligning local government disaster preparedness and communications with a new adaptation plan.

“Adapting to the ‘new normal’ is only part of the answer and is only complete when addressing the stigma of being at-risk. A community may have an effective adaptation plan but failing to manage the perception that rising sea levels bring, the effort can fall flat,” Marmillion said. “We work with them to achieve both.”

AWF is presently participating in the Monroe Country, Florida Climate Change Advisory Committee to write a five-year adaptation plan that includes communities from Key West to Key Largo. Similar to Southeast Louisiana inundation maps and concern over soon-to-be-released FEMA flood designations, the need is heightened for solutions to sustain Gulf Coast communities from Texas to Florida.

“The Sea Safe program is the next step for communities to take the millions spent on resiliency planning and put that planning into real adaptation action,” Coffee said, “and we can assist them in communicating their good work to bolster their future economic stability.”

Since its inception, the Foundation has forged compromise among diverse coastal interests, encouraging private sector engagement in restoration. Its latest efforts include the completion of three coastal restoration projects, all privately funded.

In keeping with the notion that private sector funding is an integral part of restoring Louisiana’s coast, AWF launched the Louisiana Coastal Exchange (LCX). The Exchange is a free inventory and reporting of private sector funded restoration projects that are completed or planned and available for private investment.

Through programs like these, The America’s WETLAND Foundation hopes to ensure against retreat from the coast through adaptation plans and actions and through continued efforts to engage private sector participation.

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