Smart Growth Targets Waterfront Communities, Climate Change

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies have released a first-of-its-kind smart growth guide that will help coastal and waterfront communities tackle threats from sea level rise, stronger hurricanes, flooding and other challenges.

More than half the U.S. population lives in coastal counties, 180 million people visit coastal areas every year, and many others visit lake and riverfront communities. Smart growth approaches can help waterfront communities accommodate their unique growth and development challenges and be more resilient to weather- and climate-related hazards, while protecting their traditional values.

"We're working to protect the extraordinary natural resources at the heart of recreational and economic opportunities in waterfront and coastal communities," said EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Michael H. Shapiro.

Shapiro announced the guide at the H209 Forum in Jersey City, N.J. The forum celebrates the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of the Hudson River Valley by bringing together stakeholders from New York, New Jersey and the Netherlands to discuss water challenges facing coastal cities.

The new interagency guide, aimed at planners, local government officials, developers, non-profit groups, and coastal and waterfront residents, includes a description of tools and techniques for applying smart growth guidelines, with case studies illustrating the guidelines in action. For example, communities can

  • protect and restore natural buffers between the community and water;
  • align natural hazard planning with development plans;
  • promote waterfront revitalization, including retrofitting historic properties for new uses; and
  • provide a variety of land and water-based options that accommodate seasonal fluctuations in transportation needs.

The guide, “Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities,” was developed by EPA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International City/County Management Association and the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program, in consultation with the national Smart Growth Network.

The smart growth program nationally covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.

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