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Institute Awards $2.8 Million to Improve Coastal Planning & Development

By Dolores Leonard, NOAA Cooperative Institute for Coastal & Estuarine Environmental Technology
May 7, 2008

More than half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast, and in the next decade, 30 million more people are expected to move to coastal areas. While increasing development can fuel local economies, it often leads to problems such as depleted groundwater, increased flooding, and pollution, all of which threaten property, public health, and the environment. These problems have been intensified by climate change, rising sea levels, and more frequent and severe coastal storms.

To help address the challenges that come with development, the UNH Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) has awarded $2.8 million to projects that are building tools for effective planning and sustainable growth. CICEET is a partnership of UNH and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thirteen project teams working in 20 coastal states from New Hampshire to Oregon have received grants under CICEET’s Living Coasts program, which was created to provide coastal areas with more effective tools to grow in a way that preserves water quality, protects natural areas and improves community resilience. More information on individual projects is here: http://ciceet.unh.edu/living_coasts/coasts_about.html.

“Many of the environmental problems we see in coastal areas begin with land use decisions, yet most communities lack access to effective planning tools or the capacity to use them,” says Richard Langan, CICEET’s co-director. “The Living Coasts Program is a bit like preventative medicine—we want to give decision makers the tools they need to address the cause of the problems, rather than focusing on the symptoms.”

In rapidly developing southern New Hampshire, for example, researchers from UNH are constructing a set of flexible software tools to help planners balance growth with the protection of critical natural resources like groundwater. In Washington, D.C., a team led by researchers at George Washington University are developing a decision-making support system that urban areas will be able to use to encourage green space in a way that most benefits people and the environment.

Each project team is developing or enhancing a land-use planning technology with the engagement of a committed community part­ner.

“People want to know how these tools work, and whether they will be useful in their community,” says Langan. “We designed this program so that when each project is complete, the tool will have been applied in a real-world setting to address an identified problem. Future users of the tool will be able to see how the technology might work for them.”

To learn more about CICEET, go to www.ciceet.unh.edu.

 

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