Guest Member Blog Post: Sarasota, FL Moving Forward Climate Adaptation Work

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City of Sarasota uses BP Oil Spill Funds for Climate Adaptation Work

The funding source for Sarasota’s first vulnerability assessment and climate adaptation plan may surprise some – Deepwater Horizon (BP oil spill) money. After receiving the funds Sarasota’s sustainability program pitched an idea to use some for this much needed and important component of the climate action planning process. The City Commission approved the idea in December 2015 with the goal of increasing staff’s ability to include climate data in decision making and better understand how future projections could affect municipal services and the community as a whole.

As a coastal community that has been named the 7th most vulnerable region in the United States to climate change impacts, Sarasota’s residents and administration have extra incentive to pay close attention to these issues. In fact, community members had previously expressed the desire to begin a climate planning process and when City Management hired a new Sustainability Manger in 2015, climate adaptation goals were prioritized from day one.

Since the use of BP funds was approved, an interdepartmental team has formed and a layout for how to perform the assessment has been developed. A Request for Proposal for technical assistance will be released in April so the process can start by summer.

Overall the strategy includes looking at local and regional climate risks, identifying opportunities to prepare for these changes, and informing the public about climate-related hazards and adaptation opportunities. The city will be working through strong regional and local collaborations as it identifies the future climate scenarios it will use around sea level rise, storm surge, and increased heat and precipitation events. Staff will then identify affected public systems and components (such as water utilities and lift stations) before starting the next phase.

The vulnerability assessment will look at quantitative data, existing city plans, and the results of interviews with staff to understand current stresses already being experienced. Identified vulnerabilities will then be prioritized based on consequences and likelihood of their occurrence. Last but not least, the team will receive input both internally and from the public to identify adaptation strategies for the city’s greatest vulnerabilities. As this process begins, ways to train employees in climate literacy are being explored – especially within public works, utilities, and the planning department.

Although the BP oil spill devastated many coastal communities, the funding it has provided Sarasota will allow the city to plan and adapt to future changes in a way that is both resilient and responsible.

 

For more information, please contact:

Stevie Freeman-Montes

Sustainability Manager | City Manager’s Office – Sarasota, FL

stevie.freeman-montes@sarasotagov.com

http://www.sarasotagov.org/sgc/index.cfm

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