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FHWA/AASHTO Climate Change Adaptation Peer Exchange - December 2009

6 Adaptation Efforts Underway in States

Mr. Gaj provided an overview of responses recently provided by Division Offices in to a survey of climate change adaptation activities in their state. Several divisions had not yet responded, so his remarks were based on a subset of the full suite of survey responses. The questions included in the survey are provided below along with a brief summary of Mr. Gaj's comments.

6.1.1 Question 1

Does your State have any plans for adapting to the impacts of climate change, either as part of a Climate Action Plan or not? Such plans could relate to public infrastructure such as water, sewage, electricity, etc.

Some examples of adaptation efforts underway in states include the California Governor's Executive Order which includes developing a statewide Climate Adaptation Strategy Panel to assess sea level rise impacts to inform state planning efforts, Florida's Climate Change Action Plan provides a framework for adaptation strategies, and Tennessee's efforts to develop an inventory of vulnerable infrastructure and an assessment of the potential risk of adverse impacts of climate change.

6.1.2 Question 2

Has the State DOT undertaken a comprehensive inventory of transportation infrastructure to identify assets that are vulnerable to projected changes in climate?

Some examples of inventories of transportation infrastructure include the California inventory of assets vulnerable to sea level rise and the Federal Lands Highway (FLH), which is using data collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to identify and prioritize the transportation infrastructure at risk

6.1.3 Question 3

Has your state considered projected changes in climate in the planning process? The project development and NEPA process? In operations?
Table 2. Responses to Question 3

  Yes No Ongoing/Under Development
Planning Process 7 18 7
NEPA/Project Development 5 20 7
Operations 5 23 4

Examples of how states have considered changes in climate in the planning process, project development, and/or operations include California, which incorporates climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and strategies throughout state strategic, system and regional planning efforts. In addition, the State DOT and MPOs in Colorado and Florida will address climate change as they soon begin an update of their long-range plans.

6.1.4 Question 4

Has your state considered projected changes in climate (e.g., changes in relative sea level) when establishing design standards or materials specifications for particular projects or categories of infrastructure (like bridges)? If so, please provide some information on sources of climate data, how it was used, etc.

Examples of states that have made or are considering changes in design standards or materials specifications include Maine, which takes into account the frequency and severity of projected flooding events for the design and maintenance of bridges within the State. When possible, bridges are designed to accommodate a 100-year flood event rather than a 50-year event. In addition, North Carolina considered sea level rise and raised the highway grade accordingly for the century mark (1.5 ft/century) on a project.

6.1.5 Question 5

Has your State DOT established a climate change adaptation-related retrofit program?
3 Yes or being considered
31 No
Examples of establishing a climate change adaptation-related retrofit program include Florida's DOT retrofit program, which is retrofitting bridges, focusing on high risk (susceptible to high scour rates) and developing an action plan for other high risk bridges. In addition, Maine DOT is applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Grants for retrofit.

6.1.6 Question 6

What would you look for from FHWA Headquarters with regard to climate change adaptation (policy, guidance, technical input, other)?
Examples included: distribution of research results, providing guidance and technical assistance, undertaking webinars, sharing information on what others are doing, and providing guidance on developing a Climate Change Action Plan.

6.1.7 Question 7

Any additional information on unique or noteworthy climate change adaptation activities in your state?

Examples of additional climate change adaptation activities underway include the New Jersey DOT workshop "Sustainable Transportation in a Changing Environment", which was hosted with the goal to gain a better understanding of the reality of climate change and its consequences. FHWA South Carolina Division Office is hosting a livability/climate change workshop in the spring of 2010. Utah is developing an aggressive Mass Transit Strategy, establishing Growth Principles, strengthening Trip Reduction programs and employing Demand Management strategies. Pennsylvania has reduced the amount of mowing, converting to 5% biodiesel for their fleet, etc.

Because of water rise and increased storm severity throughout Oceana, Hawaii is already experiencing immigration of affected peoples from far flung islands and atolls (Micronesia) which are succumbing to ocean rise and protective reef destruction.

Updated: 3/27/2014
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