The Bottom Line of Resiliency

Newport waterfront businesses participate in pilot program to prepare for sea level rise, storm damage and climate change.

Three pilot sites along Newport’s waterfront were assessed by professionals representing academia, government, insurance, disaster management and architecture fields to examine the current state of resilience, or capabilities to withstand climate change impacts, and to make recommendations to strengthen such capacity.

The Newport Resilience Assessment Tour led by the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) as part of the Climate Change Adaptation for Municipalities project, which is partially funded by Sea Grant, evaluated various properties with diverse uses and conditions along the Newport Harbor. The goal of the tour was to help Newport’s waterfront business sector (for profit and non-profit alike) continue to become more resilient. Ultimately, outreach and education along with financial incentives and ease of implementation were pointed out to strengthen both resiliency and businesses’ bottom lines.

The knowledge gained and lessons learned will inform good practices and recommendations for the pilot sites that can then be replicated elsewhere in the city, state and beyond, said Pam Rubinoff, CRC coastal manager and a project leader.

While resilience certainly can be designed and built into new structures, existing properties and environments also can be strengthened in cost-effective ways.

If you can do a little bit now, what that is going to save you is monumental, said Dan Goulet of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council and an assessment team member. 

Newport Harbor

Tie-downs for rooftop equipment, properly protected utility hookups and water-permeable features for parking lots and streetscapes are examples of certain measures that can pay off not only by minimizing storm and flood damage (as well as high tides in the future with accelerated sea level rise), but by ensuring that an entity can operate without interruption after such an event.

Before any resilience strengthening can occur, however, businesses, municipalities and the public need to be made aware and educated.

“We need to work across disciplines and get our messages out to different audiences,” said Teresa Crean, CRC coastal manager.

Bill Coulbourne, a structural engineer from Delaware who has actively participated in post-storm assessments including Sandy and Katrina and was a Newport assessment team member, agreed.

This is not one size fits all. Outreach is important; make it easy for businesses to engage.”

Newport Harbor

Lack of information can have a steep price, literally. Coulbourne noted that up to 15 percent of federal funds awarded to a state in the wake of a disaster can be used for mitigation projects. Many communities, unfortunately,  don’t know that such incentives are available and how best to access them.

Funds that go unused must be returned to the federal government.

The Newport team currently is preparing summary reports for each of the pilot sites and will share knowledge gained from the assessments with the business owners and other waterfront entities in the fall.

Businesses and community waterfront actions will be highlighted at the Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium in December, Staying Afloat: Adapting Waterfront Businesses to Rising Seas and Extreme Storms.

Pilot activities will be reviewed during a follow-up project related to green infrastructure capacity building in Newport, North Kingstown and Warwick starting in January. The Newport Assessment Tour was funded by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, 11th Hour Racing and the Prince Charitable Trust.