Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program (APNEP) was one of six pilot programs to receive a technical assistance award in 2008 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program. Seven public listening sessions were held in 2008 to discuss the combined impacts of sea level rise and population growth to the region; in addition, APNEP is working to develop an adaptation communication strategy for local decision makers.


The Albemarle-Pamlico system is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. Barrier islands like the Outer Banks are also at risk from shoreline erosion and storm surges. APNEP is working to communicate these risks to the public and policymakers through two means: 1) a series of public listening sessions, and 2) direct interaction with policy makers. APNEP and the Albemarle-Pamlico Conservation and Communities Collaborative hosted seven public listening sessions throughout the region in summer 2008. Residents came to voice concerns about sea level rise and population growth, and discuss potential solutions. APNEP is also engaging directly with policy makers. The program is working with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University to interview local and state elected officials about climate change issues and actions.


Over 100 residents attended the listening sessions held in communities on the coastal plain of North Carolina, including Washington, Engelhard, Columbia, Elizabeth City, Edenton, New Bern, and Manteo through July and August 2008. These communities were selected for their vulnerability to sea level rise and their diverse populations and landscapes. There were three goals for these sessions: 1) to provide participants with basic information about sea level rise and population growth in the Albemarle-Pamlico region; 2) to give participants an opportunity to share their concerns about the potential impacts; and 3) to generate potential solutions that could address these impacts. Participants for the sessions were recruited through mailed flyers, local media coverage, and direct invitations. The suggestions offered ranged from using natural or engineered shoreline protection measures (e.g., oyster reef buffers vs. bulkheads), incorporating future sea level rise projections into floodplain maps and zoning restrictions to discourage building in low-lying areas, employing stronger regulations to limit shoreline development in high risk areas, and educating the public and local policy makers on climate change impacts. Education was actually the most commonly suggested solution from all of the sessions. Another component of this project is the work with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions to directly engage with local policy makers. The interviews will measure officials’ understanding of climate change issues and uncover the actions they are taking to address these challenges.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The findings from the listening sessions and the interviews have greatly informed the outreach work of APNEP as they work to construct a comprehensive outreach campaign to develop adaptation solutions to sea level rise. This outreach will target the public and will result in the development of a climate change and adaptation communication strategy for local policy makers.

Last updated March 2010

Gregg, R. M. (2010). Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program's Climate Ready Estuaries Project [Case study on a project of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated March 2010)

Project Contact(s)

Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program

The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program (APNEP) works to identify, restore, and protect the significant resources of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. APNEP’s activities are focused around intergovernmental cooperation, and workshops and public forums to educate and engage stakeholders.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Climate Ready Estuaries

The Climate Ready Estuaries program works with the National Estuary Programs and other coastal managers to: 1) assess climate change vulnerabilities, 2) develop and implement adaptation strategies, 3) engage and educate stakeholders, and 4) share the lessons learned with other coastal managers.


Scale of Project
Community / Local
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Sea level rise
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Habitat/Biome Type
Effort Stage
In progress