Prioritizing Adaptation Recommendations for Equitable Flooding Resilience in Montgomery County’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan

Montgomery County, Maryland

Featured image for the project, Prioritizing Adaptation Recommendations for Equitable Flooding Resilience in Montgomery County’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan

Image courtesy of visitmontgomery.com

Description

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and communities like Montgomery County, Maryland are already facing increased extreme weather events and flooding. Located to the north of Washington DC, Montgomery County is diverse in its geography with both urban and suburban landscapes, changing elevations, and multiple watersheds. Flash floods in July of 2019 highlighted the county’s vulnerability to increasing climate impacts–heavy rains led to dozens of water rescues and severely damaged infrastructure. The Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is in the process of addressing the need for adaptation planning at the county scale. The County Council recently declared a Climate Emergency, one of the first in the US to do so. As an important next step, the council has announced its intention to develop a Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP) to be released in early 2021.

The CARP will cover both mitigation and adaptation strategies with an emphasis on identifying co-benefits. This will include a strategy to achieve the county’s ambitious goal to reduce total carbon emissions 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035, as well as a chapter on adaptation actions to improve community resilience to the impacts of a changing climate. A major focus of the adaptation chapter will be to assess future flood risk and develop recommendations with specific consideration for climate equity. The planning process is currently underway with five workgroups established to ensure the expertise of the county’s diverse population is incorporated into the CARP. The Adaptation Workgroup’s final meeting is Feb 12, and recommendations will be made public at a Climate Town Hall on Feb 27. For the next phase of work, hired consultants will utilize downscaled climate modeling to identify potential impacts of climate change and to conduct a vulnerability assessment. The Office of Emergency Management continues to collaborate with the county’s data team, and is seeking additional scientific expertise for the development of the adaptation chapter of the CARP.

 

The Project

The Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is seeking expertise to assist in the development of the CARP’s climate adaptation chapter. The office would like to prioritize the list of adaptation recommendations developed by the Adaptation Workgroup with specific focus on flooding. Factors to consider may include: total benefit, anticipated cost-benefit, correction of inequities, timing required for implementation (imminence), and community buy-in. The county is seeking to focus the direction of the modelling work to be conducted by consultants based on this prioritization. As part of the project, the county is additionally seeking scientific advisement regarding what scenarios, projections, variables, datasets, etc. should be prioritized within the modelling work and data analysis to be conducted by consultants.

 

Project Outputs:

Outputs include:

  • An analysis of available data sources and data gaps for Montgomery County to inform the modelling priorities to be pursued with a paid consultant
  • A prioritization of the Adaptation Workgroup’s flooding adaptation recommendations based on criteria developed in consultation with the county
  • Advisement on incorporating climate equity into the recommendations, modelling, and vulnerability assessment for the CARP adaptation chapter
  • General guidance throughout the process on best practices in climate adaptation planning
  • Feedback on the draft CARP adaptation chapter

 

Timeline:

Development of the Climate Action and Resilience Plan is currently underway. An estimated timeline of CARP development is outlined below.

February 12, 2020—Final Adaptation Workgroup meeting

February 18, 2020—Combined meeting of all 5 Workgroups

February 27, 2020—Climate Town Hall, Workgroup recommendations publicly available

March-April 2020—Consultant selection and contract finalization

May-October 2020—CARP draft developed

November 2020—Budget for fiscal year 2021 submitted, with list of high priority adaptation actions included for consideration prior to plan publication

Early 2021—Publication of the Climate Action Plan

Project Team

Community Leads

Earl Stoddard is the Director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He will be supported by Marianne Souders, Planning Division Chief, Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

As the community leads, Earl and Marianne commit to serving as the liaisons between the scientist(s) and county planning process, which may include the county data team, Adaptation Workgroup, hired consultants, County Council, etc.

(Photos and biographies coming soon!)

Community Science Fellow

Anna LoPresti is the Sustained Assessment Specialist with the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast, a NOAA RISA program. She is based at Columbia University in New York, where she conducts research on local climate adaptation activities in the region as ongoing input into the National Climate Assessment. She works with stakeholders to ensure that climate information is locally relevant, accessible and successfully integrated into decision-making in the urban corridor from Philadelphia to Boston. Anna is a member of the Environmental Justice Working Group with WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a community-based organization in Northern Manhattan. She holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development from Columbia University. Anna is originally from Tower Lakes, Illinois.

Scientist Wanted

The Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security seeks a scientific partner to contribute to the evaluation and prioritization of the adaptation actions to be included in the CARP. The scientist will work with the County throughout the duration of the CARP planning process (estimated through early 2021). In the initial phase, the scientist will collaborate with the county to shape the work of the hired consultants through an analysis of data and modelling resources available to the county and development of recommendations for modelling priorities. Following this initial stage, the scientist will identify criteria to assess the flooding adaptation recommendations developed by the Adaptation Workgroup, and produce a prioritized list. Short-term priorities for adaptation action will be incorporated into the fiscal year budget, finalized in November 2020. Throughout the life of the project, the scientific partner will provide advice on incorporation of equity into the CARP adaptation chapter and guidance on local adaptation planning best practices.

 Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

Desired Skills and Expertise

  • The county is open to working with an individual, or with groups of researchers including graduate students. The scientific partner does not need to be located in or near Montgomery County, but familiarity with and/or proximity to the Chesapeake Bay area is plus.
  • Background in hydrology and/or climatology preferred
  • Experience with climate modelling and projections, particularly related to flooding
  • Experience or understanding of local climate adaptation planning processes
  • Demonstrated commitment to environmental justice and equity
  • Familiarity with a variety of climate and social science data sources
  • Adept problem-solver and able to effectively convey results to diverse groups
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Willing to share ideas to shape the direction of the project