Stories From The Field

Assessing Hazard Vulnerability and Resilience in Coastal Communities of the Delaware Bay

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New Jersey’s coastal communities face increasing threats from shallow coastal flooding, storms such as hurricanes and nor’easters, shoreline erosion, and sea level rise. As natural hazards threaten the New Jersey shore, local decision-makers are charged with protecting the population, infrastructure, and natural resources within their municipality. Municipal leaders therefore have the greatest capacity to influence the resilience of their communities but may lack the resources to accurately portray the threats they may face.


The New Jersey Office of Coastal Management worked closely with communities on the Delaware Bay using its Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment Protocol, or CCVAP, and Getting to Resilience Questionnaire. The protocol is a mapping tool that allows communities to assess geographic, environmental, and social vulnerability to the impacts of storm surge and projections of sea level rise. The tool uses current information on elevation, land cover, storm surge, geomorphologic characteristics, and flooding to provide coastal communities with a characterization of their vulnerabilities to coastal hazards. These vulnerabilities include the built environment, public health and safety, natural resources, and the local economy. Along with the protocol, communities applied a questionnaire designed to assist local governments in characterizing their existing municipal plans and identify opportunities to respond to the impacts of coastal hazards, storm surge, and sea level rise.


The piloting of the protocol and the questionnaire in the Delaware Bay validated the appropriate process to engage coastal communities about hazards reduction and fostered collaboration among state, local, and county governments. Coupling the use of these tools not only informed participants of existing inundation vulnerabilities, it also spurred conversation about public education and hazard reduction. The township and counties are now equipped to use recommendations from these documents to help guide their efforts to reduce their vulnerability and become more resilient to coastal hazards and the impacts of climate change.

Coastal Vulnerability Index for Greenwich Township, New Jersey. This graphic includes assessments of inundation from storm surge, geomorphology, soil drainage, erosion, and slope. Using this map, municipal leaders can overlay local features (built environment, natural habitats) to assess risk to coastal hazards.

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