Incorporating Climate Change Impacts into Activities in Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Created: 3/07/2010 - Updated: 10/28/2021


In 2008, the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership (formerly the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program; CHNEP) conducted a regionwide vulnerability assessment and developed an adaptation plan for the City of Punta Gorda, Florida. In 2009, CHNEP began to develop climate change indicators and a monitoring plan to support adaptation planning. CHNEP continues to be an active player in climate change planning and action in Southwest Florida through water quality monitoring, hydrological restoration, community resilience, and environmental protection programs.


The Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership (formerly the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program; CHNEP) received two technical assistance grants in 2008 and 2009 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Ready Estuaries Program. In 2008, CHNEP conducted a climate change vulnerability assessment for Southwest Florida in partnership with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC). As part of their efforts, CHNEP developed an adaptation plan, which was approved by the City of Punta Gorda in November 2009. The 2009 award was granted to assist CHNEP in developing climate change indicators and a monitoring plan to support CHNEP’s existing planning efforts for adaptation; in addition, the EPA provided assistance in creating model ordinances and other policy tools. CHNEP received additional EPA funding in 2010 and 2016 to develop conceptual ecological models for Charlotte Harbor, conduct a habitat resiliency study for the CHNEP area, and conduct a broad, risk-based climate change vulnerability assessment.


Concerned about a suite of climate change impacts, CHNEP conducted a vulnerability assessment for Southwest Florida in 2008. CHNEP and SWFRPC used Sea Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) modeling to assess storm surge impacts and to improve land use and conservation decisions in the region. Based on these efforts, CHNEP began working on an adaptation plan for the City of Punta Gorda in 2008. Climate change impacts of concern to the city include drought, sea level rise, higher temperatures, storm surges, increased storm frequency, and increased and extreme precipitation events. The adaptation priorities for the city included seagrass protection and restoration, native plant landscaping, limiting high-risk development along shorelines, promoting green building, and drought preparedness planning. The adaptation plan for the City of Punta Gorda was approved in November 2009 by the City Council and was updated with the help of CHNEP in 2019. The update includes a vulnerability assessment of critical infrastructure, modeling for flood analysis and sea level rise, and a guidance document on living shorelines. Recommended next steps include updates to the city’s Comprehensive Plan to increase resilience to sea level rise and climate change.

CHNEP worked with the EPA to develop climate change indicators and a monitoring plan using CHNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and the completed vulnerability assessment, and created model ordinances to guide local decision making. In 2019, CHNEP updated the Comprehensive Plan as well as four strategy documents for monitoring, finance, communications, and habitat restoration needs. Also in 2019, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program Habitat Resiliency to Climate Change report was revised. The study used Habitat Evolution Modeling (HEM) to forecast habitat changes under different sea level rise scenarios and identify areas to prioritize for restoration in order to increase resilience to the impacts of sea level rise.

CHNEP continues to conduct water quality monitoring, hydrological restoration, community resilience-building, and environmental protection through its projects and programs. A few current and ongoing projects include:

  1. CHNEP Water Atlas: a data management and mapping system that is accessible to the public. CHNEP is currently adding a habitat restoration needs/habitat resiliency to climate change interactive mapping tool, water quality dashboard, nutrient criteria calculator, a page focused on Lake Okeechobee conditions, and improved data graphs. This project is funded by the EPA.
  2. Coastal Charlotte Harbor Monitoring Network: a partnership of several agencies that is managed by CHNEP. The anticipated benefits of this project include public outreach, assisting in informed-decision making, and improved water quality. This project is funded by the EPA and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
  3. Alligator Creek Stream Restoration: the goal of this hydrological restoration project is to restore about 40 acres of creek corridor to create a more hospitable environment for native species and improve shorelines. This project is funded by the EPA.
  4. Habitat Restoration Needs Expansion: this project developed a Habitat Restoration Needs Plan for the CHNEP area including upstream portions of the Caloosahatchee River basin in Glades and Hendry counties. The Plan is intended to serve as a guide for identifying, prioritizing, and implementing effective habitat restoration and

Outcomes and Conclusions

Products from CHNEP efforts are intended to assist federal, state, regional, and local agencies to prepare for future climate change impacts on coastal resources and communities. Additionally, the model ordinances for counties and municipalities are meant to serve as templates for local planners to use when making land use and infrastructure decisions.

In 2020, CHNEP aims to obtain reauthorization of the EPA’s National Estuary Program and secure National Estuary Program funding. Select legislative priorities for CHNEP moving forward include establishing a state-wide, long-term funding program through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for estuary restoration projects and supporting the continued ability of local governments to enact more stringent environmental protection ordinances.

The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan
Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) Habitat Resiliency to Climate Change: Habitat Evolution Modeling Report
CHNEP Water Atlas Maintenance and Enhancements
Coastal Charlotte Harbor Monitoring Network (CCHMN): Water Quality Improvement
CHNEP Alligator Creek Stream Restoration Project 
CHNEP Habitat Restoration Needs Expansion 


Information gathered from interviews and online resources. Last updated on 7/21.

Project File (s)

Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program City of Punta Gorda, Florida Adaptation Plan


Gregg, R. M. and Braddock, K.N. (2021). Incorporating Climate Change Impacts into Activities in Charlotte Harbor, Florida [Case study on a project of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated May 2021)

Project Contact(s)

The National Estuary Program (NEP) was established by Section 320 of the Water Quality Act of 1987. Section 320 authorizes the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to convene Management Conferences to develop Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMPs) for estuaries of national significance that are threatened by pollution, development or overuse. Section 320 also outlines the estuary designation process and the purposes of the Management Conference.

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.

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council is a planning and public policy agency to assist in the regions development and communities. The Council has five committee's; agency on bay management, community housing committee, energy and climate committee, local emergency planning committee, lower west coast watersheds committee, and the resource conservation and development council.


Scale of Project
Community / Local
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Host adaptation training or planning workshop
Monitor climate change impacts and adaptation efficacy
Governance and Policy
Develop / implement adaptation plans
Taxonomic Focus
Other Invertebrates
Sociopolitical Setting
Effort Stage
In progress

Related Resources

Adaptation Phase
Sharing Lessons
Sector Addressed
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
Read more