Risk-Based Vulnerability Assessment of the Indian River Lagoon to Climate Change

Posted on: 10/10/2019 - Updated on: 2/27/2020

Posted by




The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a non-regulatory program established by the U.S. Congress and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The NEP was authorized by Section 320 of the Clean Water Act in 1987. Each estuary in the NEP was designated by the U.S. Congress as an “Estuary of National Significance.” Today, 28 estuaries located along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and in Puerto Rico have been designated as estuaries of national significance. 

The 28 NEPs develop and implement Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMPs), which are long-term plans that contain actions to address challenges and priorities related to water quality and living resources. Work is focused within a study area that includes the estuary and its watershed. NEP challenges and priorities are defined by local, city, state, federal, private, and non-profit stakeholders. The NEP is a collaborative, effective, efficient, and adaptable coastal ecosystem-based network. With more than 20 years of experience implementing key provisions of the Clean Water Act, the NEP is the nation’s principal watershed program — one that offers a viable, effective method for protecting and managing all types of watershed environments.

This project was designed to complete part 1 of the Workbook; a risk-based vulnerability assessment of the IRLNEP’s mission to the risks associated with climate change stressors. This was achieved by completion of 5 steps: 

  • Step 1. Communication and consultation - identify key stakeholders and prepare a schedule for stakeholder involvement. 
  • Step 2. Establishing context - compile list of organizational goals and associated Action Plans (CCMP 2008) that are susceptible to climate change. 
  • Step 3. Risk identification - create a broad list of climate change risks that might impact the ability of the IRLNEP to achieve its goals. 
  • Step 4. Risk analysis - make an initial, high-level determination of the consequence, likelihood, spatial scale, and timeline of the impacts. 
  • Step 5. Evaluation - develop a consequence/probability matrix prioritizing risks most likely to impact the goals and objectives (aka Action Plans) of the IRLNEP.