Over the past few years, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve has been spearheading an initiative to help coastal New Jersey start its resilience planning. Impacts from post-tropical cyclone Sandy identified the need for communities to be better prepared for both larger and smaller hazards.
Through the New Jersey Resilient Coastal Communities Initiative and NJADAPT, coastal New Jersey communities have access to a team of people armed with resources like the Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper and Getting to Resilience questionnaire. These tools can help communities start the conversations about risks, vulnerabilities, and how to tackle their impacts through existing plans, programs, and partnerships. Twenty-five municipalities in coastal New Jersey are now using maps to kick-start their conversations about hazards and what those hazards mean to their residents. At the first community meeting, research reserve staff shared electronic maps created from the Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper on screens that allowed participants to gather around for discussions. The maps stimulated lively conversations about risks and vulnerabilities. Maps are an effective way to highlight critical information and help enable discussions about participants’ own experiences and knowledge. In addition, New Jersey has customized its own tool, called the Coastal Hazard Profiler. NOAA shared the Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper code with the Jacques Cousteau research reserve, which adapted it to meet local needs by adding local data.
Although participants often understood the issues from an individual point of view, this was the first time they were able to look at them from a community perspective and talk about local risks and vulnerabilities together. The municipalities could then collaborate to develop recommendations on specific strategies and action plans. By providing technical assistance and access to maps and tools, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve helped coastal New Jersey communities kick-start their planning activities and make progress toward greater resilience.