The Department of Environmental Protection announced the launch of an online mapping tool that will help the public, stakeholders and government officials advance work that is needed to bolster the resilience of New Jersey’s coastal areas to climate change.
The Coastal Ecological Restoration and Adaptation Planning Tool (CERAP Tool), provides the locations of at-risk areas, coastal resource restoration sites, and other data that will greatly assist in the targeting, development and coordination of projects needed to adapt communities to rising sea levels, increased flooding and more severe storms associated with climate change. The tool was developed in partnership with Rutgers University’s Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA), which is led by Richard Lathrop, professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources. CRSSA partnered with the NJAES Office of Research Analytics (ORA) in the development of the CERAP application, utilizing ORA’s experience in developing these types of interactive tools for public stakeholders.
“Making our coastline and urban coastal areas more resilient will take many strategies, many of which will be implemented at the local level,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “This tool will inform targeted, effective investments in restoration and resilience projects as part of our broader commitment to addressing climate impacts to New Jersey’s coastal communities.”
Among its many attributes, the tool will help in the development of storm and flood-protection projects that will protect communities in addition to resource restoration and nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change impacts, such as projects that maximize carbon sequestration and shoreline stability. Data obtained from the tool may also be used to provide supporting documentation for applications for federal and state funding opportunities.
“This mapping tool supports the state’s Climate Change Resilience Strategy by equipping coastal municipal planners and our non-profit partners with a resource to coordinate coastal restoration projects that support community resilience, ecosystem health, and carbon sequestration,” said NJDEP Chief Resilience Officer Nick Angarone.
The mapping tool can be used to evaluate the need for and plan the location of appropriate intervention strategies and tactics by displaying the magnitude of location-based stressors, also referred to in the tool as Issues of Concern. Through consultation with regional stakeholders and experts in New Jersey’s coastal ecosystem, eight primary stressors were identified. These include coastal ecosystem degradation and habitat loss, shoreline erosion, coastal flood damage, nuisance flooding, coastal storm damage, water quality degradation, loss of carbon sequestration and social vulnerability.
Additionally, the map contains two more layers; one featuring past, current, or proposed coastal resilience projects with details on project type, funding status, goals and sponsor, and another layer featuring broader areas of local and regional concern where additional action could be taken to protect at-risk resources.
These new datasets, when combined with a variety of existing data on locational vulnerabilities, natural resources, societal factors and ownership data, create a holistic view of the state’s coastal environment.
“One of the results of this effort is a mapped catalogue of sites and projects to help inform the DEP and others on where resources could be allocated for future projects,” said Richard Lathrop, director of CRSSA and one of the project’s leads.
“The initial nomination process represents a bottom-up approach to harness local knowledge about problem areas in our coastal zone and to also identify gaps where there might be issues that haven’t been recognized,” added Lathrop.
Other uses of the tool include assessing areas for restoration to address existing or future threats; evaluating proposed acquisition sites for flood threats, habitat vulnerability and water quality attributes; determining the vulnerability of proposed restoration or enhancement projects; and leveraging existing work by looking to combine past restoration efforts with new actions.
The development of the mapping tool was funded through an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Wetlands Programmatic Grant and is being developed to take the goals and objectives of prior recommendations of other New Jersey climate-related initiatives such as the state’s Climate Change Resilience Strategy, DEP’s Blue Acres acquisition program, and innovative flood protection measures of Rebuild by Design efforts, and apply them to other vulnerable coastal areas.
For more information on the Coastal Ecological Restoration and Adaptation Planning Tool, visit nj.gov/dep/climatechange/njcerap.html.
This article first appeared on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website.