City commissions plan to head off climate-related disasters

A slide from the NEMAC presentation shows the possible exposure to flooding-related damage in the city of Asheville. Slide provided by NEMAC

A draft Asheville city climate-resiliency plan — due to be released  by the end of the year — will focus largely on averting floods, controlling wildfires and limiting damage from landslides.

Officials presented details of the evolving strategy during a Wednesday, Nov. 16 meeting at The Collider downtown.

Like government emergency-preparedness plans, climate-resiliency policies outline a set of threats along with potential responses in case those threats materialize, said Jim Fox, director of the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center, during his Wednesday presentation. NEMAC, an applied research center of UNC Asheville, has its offices at The Collider.

City leaders contracted with NEMAC for $20,000 to develop the plan, said Amber Weaver, sustainability officer for the city. The center is matching that amount with a contribution from its own funds, Fox said.

About 20 people attended the meeting, including City Council members Cecil Bothwell and Julie Mayfield and Asheville Neighborhood Advisory Committee Chair Elaine Poovey.

While most people focus on temperature when discussing climate change, Fox said, “It’s really about water. Either you don’t have enough or you have too much.”

That fact manifests itself locally as wildfires, floods and landslides, Fox said.

Much of the plan identifies plots of city land, buildings, infrastructure, services, roads and neighborhoods vulnerable to those incidents.

The plan also provides many options community leaders and residents may use to overcome climate-change-caused emergencies.

Those include water restrictions, constructing buildings so they may evade flood damage and revising city ordinances.

For example, Asheville passed new flood-protection requirements for some structures after the damage caused by a 2004 flood, said Matt Hutchins, a center research scientist, during his presentation.

Those new rules, which went into effect in 2010, mandated that buildings in floodplains must have a higher base height, said Hutchins, who also is the center’s environmental change project lead.

Fox, Hutchins and their colleagues have conducted six workshops with Asheville’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment during the past five months. Fourteen city departments have participated in the plan’s development, Fox said.

Committee members John Noor and Keith McDade emphasized after the meeting that the draft report, scheduled to be submitted by the center on Dec. 31, will continue to evolve.

“This is a critical first step in finding out what our priorities are,” McDade said.

The center’s work ultimately will be presented to the public for feedback, Noor said.

“We all need to work together” in addressing threats caused by climate change, he said.

Poovey, Asheville’s neighborhood committee chair, said after the meeting that part of that work must include an educational component. That way, area residents and neighborhood organizations will become aware that a city climate-resiliency plan is underway.

No timetable is in place yet for completion of the plan because of its scope and complexity – and the amount of work left to be done, Weaver said.

The climate-resiliency strategy likely will exist as a stand-alone document and as part of the city’s comprehensive plan, Weaver said.

Weaver and Mayfield said they were uncertain whether the climate-resiliency proposal would require formal adoption by the City Council.

“But I would hope we’d receive a presentation on it,” Mayfield said after the meeting.

The main takeaway from what the center will submit within six weeks is a foundation that “provides us the direction in which we’re to go, and that we do so with purpose,” Weaver said.

To learn more, click here: Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment.

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10 thoughts on “City commissions plan to head off climate-related disasters

  1. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    “..threats caused by climate change”

    Since the world has supposedly been getting catastrophically warmer since 1977 (not true, but bear with me), can anyone name a local disaster since then that has been greater than the 1977 flood?

      • boatrocker

        2005 Hurricane Katrina?
        The 2004 tsunami?
        Hurricane Andrew, Matthew?
        1989 San Fran earthquake?
        The Blizzard of ’93?

        You did ask. What makes local disaster any more important than one from somewhere else, by the way,
        oh denier of weather?

        All these pesky science facts can be found for consulting Asheville’s own
        The National Center For Climate Information, a non partisan science based cache of
        data located right on Patton Ave.
        828- 271-4800 if you’re interested, but yea, somehow Hillary is involved lol LULZ,

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          No credible scientist will state that hurricanes Katrina or Matthew were caused by global warming. Or the 2004 tsunami. Or earthquakes (good god did you really say that?). btw this article pertains to planning for LOCAL disasters. Thus my comment.

          • boatrocker

            If ‘credible’= funded by the fossil fuel industry, then I agree with you teeee totally!
            You’re right and science is wrong, yet again. Now please show some objective non partisan sources for your
            post truth beliefs.

          • Lulz

            LOL, snobbish lefty loons haven’t learned their lesson YET. You will. No one is going to literally go broke so you can push your crony agenda. You’ve been shown that ignoring people who have lost their livelihoods and then with cruelty berate, humiliate, and bully them is why the swamp will be drained. Locally while you manipulate the young with no real life experiences is still the norm, I’m pretty sure when they wake up because they’re still making 8 bucks an hour in a decade and the cronies are still arguing about affordable housing, you guys will still be blathering the same old crap.

            Gordon Smith pushed out Gerber and Ball due to water rates. Those were long term high paying jobs that that POS gladly wanted to see gone. Yet we’re in the middle of a severe drought now lulz. Oh and what’s in place of the land once occupied by those lost jobs? Service sector low paying one’s of course. That’s the first crony that needs to go. Bothwell the drunk is the next one.

          • The Real World

            Just passing on a couple of comments from 2 people on a blog I read regularly, for whatever it’s worth.

            Green energy destabilised the German power grid. So after the massive winter storm in 2012/2013 the German government started to build 7 new coal plants.
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            The scale of a blackout makes a huge difference in how quickly it can be restored. If the blackout is regional you’re looking at a day or so. If it’s national it could take weeks.

            ISTR an exercise performed in Germany on how long a national blackout would take to fix and it was, I think, about a week. The level of social co-operation falls significantly after 3 days and God only knows what a 7 day blackout would do.

            The German exercise was done purely because they consider such an event to actually be feasible given their reliance on ‘green energy’ sources and the unpredictability of such supplies on grid balancing. Generally, the more reliant your system is on green energy the worse the situation becomes.

          • Rich

            Gerber closed in 1998, ten years before Councilman Smith was elected.

  2. Deplorable Infidel

    yet another example of the pathetically poor unqualified non leadership that AVL suffers daily … do NOT waste our TAX money on this BS anymore you fools!

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