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.