Project Merit: Climate Risk Management

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CH2M Hill for its joint venture project with Hazen & Sawyer to address the impacts of climate change and weather events on wastewater infrastructure for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP).

According to NYCDEP's October 2013 news release, the resulting NYC Wastewater Resiliency Plan is "the nation's most detailed and comprehensive assessment of the risk climate change poses to a wastewater collection and treatment system."

Initiated in 2011 and expanded after Hurricane Sandy, the study included asset-by-asset analysis of the risks from storm surges under new flood maps at all 14 treatment plants and 58 pumping stations, representing more than $1 billion in infrastructure.

The CH2M Hill and Hazen & Sawyer team first defined baseline conditions using precipitation data, climate research, and climate change projections. Then they considered climate change impacts, including sea level rise, and compared baseline condition performance with performance under future scenarios.

Critical system thresholds and vulnerabilities were identified, and cost-effective and environmentally sustainable adaptation solutions were defined. Hydraulic models included: InfoWorks to understand sea level impacts; ISIS 2D modeling of flooding from surcharging sewers; and MIKE-21 to screen impacts of sea level rise. The assessment developed strategies for the vulnerabilities, and recommended $315 million of improvements, avoiding over $2 billion in potential damages over the next 50 years.

ICF International for its Federal Highway Administration-funded project, Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, Phase 2. ICF reports that the project is the largest federally funded multi-year adaptation project in a single location (Mobile, Alabama). It includes an end-to-end analysis of the vulnerability of all modes of transportation, with outputs that support decision making to increase the resilience of transportation assets and services in Mobile.

Beyond Mobile's borders, the methods pioneered in this study are designed to be replicable and transparent for use by state DOTs, local planners, and transportation practitioners nationwide. Key successes of the project during 2013 included: Completion of an indicator-based scoring system to evaluate key vulnerabilities of Mobile's transportation system under a variety of climate change scenarios with a web-based, ArcGIS online application that lets users dynamically explore spatial results of the vulnerability assessment; a new Excel-based tool for utilizing state-of-the-art climate model information in transportation planning; and a data-rich Vulnerability Assessment Scoring Tool designed for use by local planners and transportation officials around the country.

AECOM for applying its knowledge, global capabilities and goodwill towards making global cities and regions more resilient to increased extreme climatic events and natural disasters by supporting the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Private Sector Advisory Group's Making Cities Resilient Campaign.

AECOM led a Resilient Investment case study for UN ISDR in conjunction with PSAG members and the City of San Francisco, bringing together private and public sector representatives to explore how resilience is valued, current barriers and effective incentives to increase investment.

From this study, AECOM worked with IBM to develop a City Resilience Scorecard for UN ISDR as a public good to increase activity and investment in resilience. The scorecard helps cities identify pathways to increase resilience, attract investment and reduce insurance risk and costs.

Golder Associates for incorporating climate change impacts for the Concert group's Harbourside mixed-use development on three blocks of partially developed waterfront land in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

Golder's planning/landscape architectural division brought to the project expertise honed by assisted in development of land use guidelines for sea level rise, including a draft BC policy that anticipates a rise in global sea level of 50 cm (20 inches) by 2050, and 1 metre (39 inches or more) by the end of the century.

These guidelines, taken together with projections of storm surge risks, local wind exposure, sea depth, and related wave effects, have been used to raise flood construction level targets for Harbourside that will be significantly higher than the current minimum building elevations.

Working with Concert, Golder's coastal team helped design treatments for site and building form, including a waterfront park that respects geomorphology principles and considers wave effects. That way, optimum building elevations can be proposed with confidence.

Golder proposed a shoreline concept adapted for sea level rise, analyzing a series of slopes and terraces that reduce the wave effects up to a minimum "flood crest elevation," which protects the proposed buildings. The final waterfront design is likely to include a combination of perched beach, headland, salt marsh, boardwalk, walkway, and bikeway, as well as convenience parking, retail, and hotel/dining experiences.