Florida Adaptation Planning Guidebook

by Emily Henke, PLA, ASLA, APA

Urgency of adaptation planning diagram
Adaptation planning follows four major steps, with multiple opportunities for public involvement and comment. Landscape architects that like big picture thinking already have skills to support this process. / image: Emily Henke

Generally misunderstood as a bunch of tree huggers, many landscape architects have intrinsic skills that are surprisingly well suited to assisting in all steps of adaptation planning. Maybe you are the type of landscape architect that appreciates plants and what they can do for urban environments but aren’t obsessed with individual species. If you find yourself frequently looking at the big picture, more interested in understanding and improving the relationship between humans and their environment, then you will find adaptation planning a natural extension of your skills and interests.

While the guidebook discussed in this article describes steps that are currently being taken in Florida, the concepts are applicable to any coastal area that experiences flooding. Many local agencies around the country already complete Hazard Mitigation Plans that capture a wide range of disaster types, which may include hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, and sea level rise.

Florida is currently experiencing a variety of physical effects related to sea level rise depending on a local community’s specific geography. Some communities, like Miami, are already experiencing “nuisance flooding,” that is, floods that occur at high tides and/or king tides, which are not during storm events (also known as “blue sky” flooding). Cities like St. Augustine may only experience flooding as they coincide with disaster events, like Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Places like Escambia County that are not expected to experience significant flooding even with disaster events for 50 years have the tools of adaptation planning at their fingertips to make long term decisions about where to locate critical infrastructure that may have a 75-year lifespan, like a power plant or wastewater treatment facility. In this way, the adaptation planning process is designed to be flexible to accommodate this varying timeline of anticipated effects.

Continue reading