Many of the issues affecting coastal residents and marine ecosystems are regional in scope, crossing the borders of many states.
In the southeastern USA, examples of major regional issues include:
- protecting coastal communities from hurricanes;
- understanding the risk of sea-level rise and developing effective adaptation strategies;
- predicting the occurrence and impacts of harmful algal blooms;
- managing fisheries and their essential habitat;
- and maintaining public access to the water front.
These regional issues can be tackled more efficiently and effectively when programs from multiple states, federal agencies and local partners work collectively, pooling their resources, in terms of expertise, capacity, and funding sources.
Florida Sea Grant is an active partner in several regional projects in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. For example, we work with the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the state of Florida and other programs in the Gulf to develop an effective system for monitoring long-term changes in currents, temperature, water quality including toxic algae, and other variables in a program called the GOM Coastal Ocean Observing System, and participate in a similar program for the SA region.
We work with those same groups in a program called the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, in order to prioritize and fund critical research and outreach related to the issues listed above, and through the recently formed Governor’s Alliance for the South Atlantic region.
The four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fund two regional projects (at $200K/year for two years) that will evaluate strategies that coastal communities could use to reduce their vulnerability to hurricanes and rising sea level. The first project will develop a climate change projection model to quantify potential impacts of sea-level rise and hurricanes at a scale that is useful for regional planning decisions. The second project addresses a growing fear within the coastal planning community that strategies for adapting to sea-level rise will result in “takings” claims under Constitutional and statutory law. This project will examine sea-level rise adaptation policy alternatives within the context of takings law as the basis for developing innovative new land use strategies for Gulf of Mexico coastal communities.
These projects follow a successful collaboration by the Gulf Sea Grant programs in 2008-2009, which led to development of new building structures to strengthen roofs of residential homes along the southeast coast.
Florida Sea Grant also is taking the lead, in partnership with NOAA and the other Gulf Sea Grant programs in developing an outreach ‘tool kit’ for coastal county staff to use when working with their elected officials and residents to develop effective strategies for adapting to expected impacts of sea-level rise on beaches, barrier islands, coastal wetlands and waterfront infrastructure.
Given the past and continuing success of these partnerships, Florida Sea Grant expects them to increase in frequency and scope in the upcoming years.