~ Community Planning (Developing Climate-Smart Communities)

International and national actions are needed to address broad climate change policies and steps taken at these levels may motivate local action. Local planning and engagement are key to adaptation implementation. External partners such as Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University, the Model Forest Policy Program, New York state agencies, and the Huron River Watershed Council have supported adaptation planning in Great Lakes communities.

Michigan Sea Grant is working with the Spring Lake village and township to assess the impacts of climate change on stormwater runoff, identify management strategies for Great Lakes communities, and develop a guide for stormwater best management practices under altered regional climate conditions.232 A team of Michigan State University Extension specialists and educators has received funding from GLISA to collaborate with GLISA researchers, key decision makers, and stakeholders in two local governments to increase community resilience to climate variability. The project, Adapting to Climate Change and Variability: Planning Tools for Michigan Communities, will incorporate climate variability and adaptation strategies into local land use master plans and policies and create an assessment tool that can be used by other communities throughout Michigan.233

The Superior Watershed Partnership partnered with the Model Forest Policy Program to help Alger County, Michigan adapt to the impacts of climate change. Working within the Climate Solutions University, a web-based forest and water climate adaptation training program, the Superior Watershed Partnership developed the plan through a four-step process including:

  1. Creating a local climate action team
  2. Assessing local conditions for resource vulnerabilities and action opportunities
  3. Developing strategies and recommendations for climate adaptation
  4. Implementing and monitoring climate adaptation plans234

The New York Climate Smart Communities program is a partnership created in 2009 between local communities and five state agencies – the Departments of Environmental Conservation, State, and Transportation, and the Energy Research and Development Authority and Public Service Commission. It combines mitigation and adaptation responses to limit or eliminate the effects of climate change on local communities (e.g., towns, villages, cities, counties). The program provides communities with technical support and guidance; as part of the program, each community must adopt a model pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change. The Department of Environmental Conservation recently released the Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action,235 which provides step-by-step guidance to assist communities; for example, the guide provides information on how to conduct emissions inventories, develop climate action plans, and reduce energy needs.

Communities in six counties in the Great Lakes region have joined the program; they include Erie County (Town of Amherst, Town of Brant, Town of Evans, Village of East Aurora), Jefferson County (Village of West Carthage), Monroe County (City of Rochester, Town of Irondequoit), Niagara County (Town of Lewiston, Town of Porter, Town of Royalton, Town of Somerset), Oswego County (City of Oswego, County of Oswego), and Saint Lawrence County (City of Ogdensburg, Village of Norwood).236

The Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is working on a collaborative project to develop Climate-Resilient Communities in the region. This is a community project driven and supported by local funding sources. Focusing on three key sectors – water infrastructure, in-stream flows, and natural infrastructure – the HRWC, along with GLISA and the River Network, is convening scientists, engineers, planners, and managers to collaborate on climate change adaptation strategy development. Through a series of facilitated meetings, participants are gaining access to and understanding of the best available climate science, exploring adaptive capacity, sharing best practices and case studies of adaptation action, and identifying needs and opportunities (e.g., green infrastructure, education, infrastructure retrofitting). Each of the three sectors have created specific groups within which to brainstorm strategies and develop actions for implementation. HRWC and its partners also plan to evaluate the project and lessons learned; this is a model approach that may be more broadly applicable to other watersheds throughout the country.237

232 Feifel, K. M. (2012). Rein in the Runoff: Michigan’s Spring Lake Stormwater Management Project [Case study on a project of Michigan Sea Grant]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012).

233 Personal communication with J.E. Doll, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, September 2012.

234 Gregg, R. M. (2012). Developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Forest and Water Resources in Alger County, Michigan [Case study on a project of the Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012).

235 New York Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action.

236 Gregg, R. M. (2012). New York’s Climate Smart Communities Program [Case study on a project of New York Department of Environmental Conservation]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012).

237 Gregg 2012: Building Capacity for Climate-Resilient Communities and Water Conservation in the Huron River Watershed.