Because a healthy coast is our best defense.
Our natural habitats are adapted to weather coastal storms, sea level rise and other stressors.
While wetlands can’t protect us from the devastating flooding of a storm like Hurricane Florence, healthy habitats – and good planning – can shield us from some of the worst impacts and can help our communities recover more quickly. The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Coastal Resilience Initiative strengthens our natural defenses by restoring habitats and protecting our coastal communities.
We are witnessing an increase in the number and severity of storms. That’s exactly what scientists have predicted as an indicator of climate change.
Hurricane Florence’s sustained assault on North Carolina brought record-breaking rainfall, flooding, and devastation to a huge number of communities in its path. In addition to the environmental impacts, our hearts go out to the many people impacted by this storm.
The fall of 2017 was another record-breaking year for hurricanes, with Harvey, Irma and Maria impacting coastal communities on the east coast and Gulf of Mexico. The federation collaborates with sister organizations that restore coastal habitats including the Galveston Bay Foundation outside of Houston and Tampa Bay Watch in Florida. Their experiences – and now ours – confirm what we know to be true: Natural habitats are more resilient to storms, and we need to strengthen our natural defenses here in coastal North Carolina to protect our coastal communities.
In addition to post-hurricane reports from coastal professionals, university researchers in North Carolina have published peer-reviewed papers documenting that properties with bulkheads experienced 93 percent of post-hurricane shoreline damage and had higher maintenance and repair costs than natural shorelines and revetments. Research also demonstrates that natural marshes and living shorelines protected estuarine shorelines from erosion better than bulkheads during Hurricane Matthew last year.
Read these full scientific articles to learn more:
- Hurricane damage along natural and hardened estuarine shorelines: Using homeowner experiences to promote nature-based coastal protection
- Marshes with and without sills protect estuarine shorelines from erosion better than bulkheads during a Category 1 hurricane
Coverage by Coastal Review
- Read Coastal Review’s special coverage as recovery continues.
This is a long-term approach to a long-term challenge — but you can help turn the tide today.
Make your gift today to support the Coastal Resilience Initiative, promoting coastal resiliency and restoring more than 5,000 acres of wetlands over the next three years.
Because a healthy coast is our best defense.
In North Carolina, we’ve lost nearly half our wetlands, according to 2015 estimates. While wetlands can’t stop 10 feet of storm surge from flooding coastal property, they can buffer waves and reduce erosion during smaller storms and before and after the surge hits. Salt and freshwater wetlands throughout the coastal plain can help mitigate flooding during normal storm events. Good planning and retrofitting our watersheds to mimic the natural hydrology can help protect water quality and give water a place to go.
The Coastal Resilience Initiative takes a multi-pronged approach to strengthening our natural defenses by restoring wetland buffers and living shorelines, protecting existing wetlands from illegal destruction, and by working with farmers to convert marginal cropland back into large wetland areas. All of these efforts combined will restore more than 5,000 acres of wetlands over the next three years — more than offsetting our annual losses. The initiative also includes an education and outreach component to increase awareness about the need for resiliency and what we can do at the community, local and state levels.
The initiative includes:
Protect existing wetlands
Watershed restoration plans
Outreach and education
The federation made significant progress on this initiative in 2018 by completing the wetland restoration design on 4,800 acres, installing stormwater retrofits that prevent 7,193,268 gallons of polluted stormwater from entering coastal waters annually and restoring 12 acres of oyster reef and over half a mile of living shorelines. We also held eight continuing education workshops to train others to complete resilience projects and educated over 26,000 people directly through presentations, field events and tours. Our team worked at the community level coastwide to put together plans to restore local watersheds and completed an 18-month collaborative process to develop the new N.C. Shellfish Mariculture Strategic Plan.