Adapting to a Changing Environment

City of Punta Gorda

Entry Overview

General Info
Email :
Organization Address: 
326 West Marion Avenue
Punta Gorda, 33950
United States
Population Impacted: 

32.01 sq. mi.

Major Occupations: 
The major employment sectors in Punta Gorda center around the City?s prized natural resource, Charlotte Harbor, with tourism employing 1 out of every 5 people in the workforce.
Local resources the community depends on, and for what purpose: 
The most important resource to the community is Charlotte Harbor. It encompasses 270 square miles with 219 linear miles of natural shoreline and is highly significant to Florida as a nursery ground for marine and estuarine species.
Local threats to resources: 
In recent years, water pollution largely from non-point sources associated with agriculture and development activities have posed an increasing threat to the health of the estuary and threatened the tourism economy of the area.
Climate Hazards: 
The Community is concerned with a number of climate hazards and during a series of public workshops in 2009 the citizens of the City of Punta Gorda identified 54 vulnerabilities they associated with climate change that threatened the local quality of life and economic viability of the area. These vulnerabilities were combined into 8 major areas of climate change vulnerability for the city including, in order of priority: 1. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Degradation 2. Inadequate Water Supply 3. Flooding (including Sea Level Rise) 4. Unchecked or Unmanaged Growth 5. Water Quality Degradation 6. Education and Economy and Lack of Funds 7. Fire 8. Availability of Insurance.
Level of exposure to these hazards: 
There is a high level of exposure to these hazards. Over the years, dredge-and-fill operations have reduced about 25 percent of the mangrove habitat in the Charlotte Harbor Area. In addition to direct loss, urban and agricultural runoff changes water flows and sea level rise will further interfere with the beneficial functions performed by the remaining mangrove systems as well as sea grasses, salt marshes and other habitats. The high cost of developing mangrove habitat is ultimately paid by taxpayers in terms of flood damage, shoreline erosion and water quality corrections. A strategy identified for implementation is the development of "habitat migration zones" (Jim Beever, SWFRPC 2013). These zones would provide areas where sea grasses, mangroves, saltmarsh, and other critical habitats will be able migrate inland as sea level rises. Areas which will retain natural shorelines explicitly indicated in local master plans, (Comprehensive Plans), was the most popular adaptation measure proposed to address flooding impacts due to climate change in the City of Punta Gorda. This adaptation strategy was also identified in the City of Punta Gorda?s Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) review of the Comprehensive Plan and is being incorporated into rewriting of the Coastal Management Element of the City?s Comprehensive Plan.
Level of sensitivity: 
The development of "habitat migration zones" is intended to reduce infrastructure exposure to several flooding hazards including short-term, intense rain storms, tropical and hurricane storm surge flooding, and long term inundation from a rising sea level, by decreasing the amount of variable risk the City would experience in regard to disaster recovery and costs of clean up. In undeveloped areas, this practice will maintain existing habitats and increase habitat for fish and wildlife, enhancing sport and commercial fisheries and other recreational and conservation uses. Other hazards and level of sensitivity include: Habitat and Species Changes ? Regional increase or decrease of wetlands due to changes in precipitation ? Conversion of wetlands to open water ? Decreased animal health affected by increased air temperatures ? Northward relocation of ecosystems ? Migration of low marsh into high marsh ? Loss of wetlands due to retreating shorelines ? Migration/depletion of seagrass beds due to sea level rise ? Changes in wetlands due to sea level rise ? Spread of invasive native species ? Spread of invasive non-native species ? Decreased biodiversity due to increased temperatures ? Changes in aquatic food webs ? Major faunal range shifts Sea Level Rise ? More rapid sea level rise than previously predicted ? Alteration of hydrology, water quality and habitats in wetlands ? Erosion caused by sea level rise ? Geomorphologic, hydrological and water quality changes at coasts ? Sea level rise resulting from increased temperature and expansion of water volume ? Sea level rise resulting from the melting arctic ice sheet ? Higher high tides ? Larger wind driven waves in deeper estuaries Human Economy ? Ecosystem services affected by changes in estuarine water quality ? Increased threats to coastal potable water supplies ? Reduction in ecosystem services due to adaptations to climate change ? Economic consequences for ? commercial fisheries, ? sports fisheries, ? coastal tourism, ? coastal development, ? transportation development, and ? critical facilities. Land Use Changes ? Human habitation pushed inland due to sea level rise ? Reduction in the amount of land available for conservation due to sea level rise
Level of adaptive capacity: 
The City?s ability to cope with or recover from these impacts to our natural resource will depend on the strategies the City puts in place. It is important to address these issues in manageable incremental steps as we move forward. The City must provide take these incremental steps in a way that make sense for now financially and buys time moving forward; protecting our infrastructure; increasing the economic sustainability of businesses and maintains or improves the quality of life for our residents. Undertaking of such a huge task is overwhelming and costly. Therefore the City is implementing adaptations in incremental steps over time that will assess the vulnerability, summarize the considerations, set priorities, select the action, implement the plan and monitor the results. The update of the City?s Comprehensive Plan includes a section within the Conservation Element that was worked on by University of Florida Law Clinic students providing information on our waterfront development and provided sustainability policies. Objective 2.4.2 states that the City will: Address the impact of sea level rise, and seek strategies to combat its effects on the shoreline of the City. The subsequent policy reads: The City will work with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council to determine potential sea level rise impacts on the Coastal Planning Area. These type of positive strategies helps the City develop strategies and plans for future conditions. With climate change, higher, stronger coastal storm surges will reach farther inland. This may lead to saltwater intrusion in zones not tolerant of higher salinity, causing plant and animal mortality and contamination of surface and aquifer drinking water supplies. The higher waves, wave action, and hydrodynamic pressure will lead to more extensive flooding. A 20 to 25% increase in the 100-year floodplain area is expected. Salt deposition from such surges and flooding can lead to physical and chemical destruction of habitats and infrastructure. Larger floating debris and increased beach erosion will have negative impacts on human infrastructure. Shorter storm evacuation time windows prior to storms may also be expected (USCCSP 2008; Fiedler et al. 2001; Peterson et al. 2007; USNOAA 2008; USEPA CRE 2008). (Vulnerability Assessment p 61). Increases in sea level will increase shoreline erosion. Barrier islands are expected to continue to erode and migrate towards the mainland or along prevailing lateral pathways (FOCC 2009), which could eventually threaten the ecological integrity of natural communities in estuaries, tidal wetlands, and tidal rivers (FOCC 2009). As sea levels rise, shallow coastal aquifers and associated public drinking water supplies are at risk from saltwater intrusion (FOCC 2009). Sea level rise will also exacerbate many other effects of climate change. For example, coastal shorelines, beaches, mangroves, low marsh, river and creek shorelines will experience higher tides including higher high tides, higher normal tides, and higher low tides (Titus 1998; USEPA CRE 2008; Folland & Karl 2001; IPCC 2001c). The City will cope with the loss of habitat and inundation with sea level rise through careful planning to conduct proper comprehensive shoreline assessments to determine the unique characteristics of the specific shoreline. As part of this exercise, a suitability analyses to determine which lands should be armored or where shoreline managed relocation should be allowed will be conducted. Hazard projections will be utilized to determine the areas first in line to be inundated based on erosion, sea level rise, and storm surge estimates. Shoreline managed relocation could be implemented through the use of rolling easements or similar policies. Rolling easements are a special type of easement purchased from property owners along the shoreline to prevent them from holding back the sea but which allow any other type of use and activity on the land. As the sea advances, the easement automatically moves or "rolls" landward. Because shoreline stabilization structures cannot be erected, sediment transport remains undisturbed and wetlands and other important tidal habitat can migrate naturally. Similarly, there will always be dry or intertidal land for the public to walk along, preserving lateral public access to the shore. This step does not need to be implemented all at the same time and easements could be acquired in order of priority related to level and timing of exposure to coastal flooding. Furthermore, the City should designate a special overlay district in areas likely to be inundated based on hazard projections. Unique design guidelines should be implemented in these areas. Public financing in these areas should be minimized, particularly for new infrastructure. Within this area likely to be inundated, the City should create an along-shore buffer or easement for ecosystem retreat, management, and restoration. Property purchases, purchase of development rights, setbacks or deed restrictions, development disincentives, and sale incentives are some ways to create this easement. The City will need to plan for removal of inundated structures, infrastructure, and identify strategies for mitigation of hazards related to inundated structures. Creative reuse will be essential; for example, the reuse of building foundations as marine habitat could be appropriate. Finally, the City will need to continue to integrate good waterfront design principles, and adapt existing useable infrastructure for new evolving waterfront. Communities that allow managed relocation must realize that the waterfront will be constantly evolving, and must allow for this change within land-use plans and waterfront projects An example of this is the ?Old Style Development? Low ground floor elevation. Development used vertical bulk heads with typically no vegetative buffer, limited or no stormwater treatment resulting in limited habitat value except where mangroves were retained. Under the City?s new land development codes there is a higher ground floor elevation requiring a living shore with sloped shorelines. This allows for substantial vegetative buffers with emergent wetlands and litorral shelves which provide for modern stormwater treatments resulting in a net gain for fish and wildlife habitat.
Describe Your Solution: 

? Diversified or alternative livelihoods ? The protection of the City?s natural areas, rural, and agricultural lands, will continue to be an important part of the economic engine in our City. Within City there are significant environmentally sensitive lands in fact almost half of the City?s total land area is under environmental protection by the State of Florida, City, and County government entities. While at this time there are no rural or agriculturally productive lands in the City, fallow fields and abandoned citrus groves are found throughout Southwest Florida including areas immediately outside the current City Limits. Across the State agricultural and rural lands have been under intense pressure from suburban sprawl and international competition. The City recognizes that these areas represent a tremendous opportunity to reduce our regional greenhouse gas emissions by balancing the local economy with agricultural jobs by incentivizing local food production. Previously, Florida citrus and truck farms supplied the coastal population centers with all the fresh produce while cattle and poultry supplemented seafood as the primary protein source for the population. The land for agriculture is largely intact in South Charlotte County. Unlike our regional coastal neighbors this land has not as yet been planted with the final crop of tract homes and strip malls. These lands therefore represent a valuable economic opportunity in the long term for a regionally significant local food production reserve area in South Charlotte County. The challenge is to find ways to discourage suburban sprawl in the short term and provide viable incentives for the productive use of these lands. ? Improved food security Protecting the coastal habitats of Charlotte Harbor is essential for proetecting the commercial and recreational fisheries within the estuary. If a natural disaster severely disrupts the local or regional food supply, residents have access to fish as protein source. Ensuring protection of the habitats that the fisheries depend upon ensures greater local food security if the customary (and technologically depenedent) food supply is interrupted due to a severe disaster. ? Improved hazard risk management The City has recognized the importance of protecting mangrove forests in the face of sea level rise by calling for the designation of no hardening areas. The City also recognizes the importance mangroves play in protecting the developed communities immediately behind the mangrove fringe areas. The City was previously impacted by a category Hurricane Charley in 2004 that severely damaged the City?s built and natural environment including areas of mangrove forest. The City recognizes that the damage from this hurricane would have been much worse if the intact mangrove forest had not been there to protect the community. By protecting the health of our mangroves and other coastal wetland ecosystems and allowing where possible these systems to move landward as sea level rises, the City is reducing the wind and storm surge hazards associated with future tropical storms. ? Improved use of water resources or other natural ecosystem services By protecting our mangrove resources in the face of future sea level rise as described above, the City is also protecting the ecosystem services they provide such as fisheries, water quality, and recreational benefits. The City?s residents have chosen to live where they do because of the easy access to the myriad of recreational opportunities that are greatly enhanced due to the presence of healthy mangroves and other coastal wetland habitats.

Ecological Costs: 
-Unintended consequence of losing salt marsh.
Ecological Benefit: 
-Basis of a complex marine food chain. -Creation of breeding habitat -Filtration of upland run-off. -Stabilization of bottom sediments. Protection of shoreline from erosion. -Improved water quality -Wave attenuation
Economic Indicators used to measure benefit: 

-Total acreage of mangrove. -improved marine habitat -increase soil stabilization -measurement species abundance

Community/Social Cost: 
-Loss of visual connection to water. -Volunteer time for planning and design -Possible loss of recreational boating area
Community/Social Benefit: 
-Preservation of breeding habitat for game fish targeted by recreational fishermen. -Increased game fish habitat targeted by recreational fishermen. -Preservation of habitat important for birding tourism -Reduced shoreline erosion -Improve water quality -Improved understanding of the role of coastal habitats in community resilience
Community/Social Indicators used to measure benefit: 
-Surveys targeted at Charlotte Harbor use by fishermen. -Improved fishing Birding tourism generated revenues. - Erosion and water quality surveys
Economic Cost: 

-Possible loss of upland land values due to encroachment. -Possible loss of mangroves due to conversion to other land-uses -Material costs for mangrove restoration -Labor costs for professional supervision of volunteer laborers for restoration

Economic Benefit: 

-Continued expansion of eco-tourism centered tourism industry. -Monitoring of additional species (ie small tooth sawfish) increasing bio-diversity -Reduced costs for shoreline armoring in areas where oyster reefs are attenuating waves

Ecological Indicators used to measure benefit: 

-increased tourism -improved fishing opportunities provide more tourists downtown -Tourism surveys targeted at Charlotte Harbor -Monitoring reports by FWC -Avoided costs of seawalls

What were/are the challenges your community faced in implementing this solution?: 

The immediate challenge our community faced was Community and City Council Approval on the plan. Based on the efforts of the CHNEP the stakeholders assisted in the actual development of the climate adaptation plan. Their assistance provided additional community awareness relating to climate change and the associated economic, social and ecological challenges. Their input was included in the project and gave these local participants a chance to provide possible solutions to the City?s future climate change plans. In short the stakeholders were part of the solution. Knowing the audience and working with the CHNEP, the CHNEP communicated the issue and prompted thoughtful conversations among the workshop participants. Many of the anticipated consequences of climate change occur via mechanisms involving interactions among the stressors and variables, and therefore may not be widely appreciated by policy makers, managers, stakeholders, and the public. Keeping the stakeholders engaged in the continual policymaking will be crucial as the process continues. Loss of interest from the community will reduce the planning efforts the City has established with this approved plan. Without the backing of the citizens the plan?s success is in jeopardy. It is essential to continue to plan and act now to mitigate, minimize, and adapt to the negative effects of climate change, and to examine the possibilities of providing benefits to human and natural systems by adapting to the changing planet.

Describe the community-based process used to develop the solution including tools and processes used: 

Due to the City?s size and available funds, staff utilizes a variety of grants and opportunities to partner with local & regional groups and organizations, as well as a variety of state and federal agencies in an effort to complete studies and projects. In 2009 the City partnered with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) to produce a City Adaptation Plan. The vulnerability assessment of any city is a function both of the city?s sensitivity to changes in climate as well as its adaptive capacity to adjust to changes in climate (either reactively or proactively through planning decisions). To assess its vulnerability, the city described the specific effects from climate change that are likely to affect key management goals. Climate change impacts will vary regionally, as will the approach taken to identify the most significant vulnerabilities. There are many different approaches to completing an assessment, from simple back-of-the-envelope approaches based on effects that are already occurring, to more sophisticated approaches that examine the links between multiple effects using predictive modeling or other tools to help project changes. Although a general understanding of vulnerability may be enough of a basis to inform adaptation actions in coastal areas, most cities need and develop city-specific information that better characterizes the spatial distribution, intensity, and frequency of projected impacts. A more detailed and descriptive assessment is necessary to better inform stakeholders and to prioritize and gain support for actions. Additionally, the time frame for effects will vary according to the selected planning horizon for the city. Regardless, a vulnerability assessment could include: a description of the approach used, a summary of the most significant effects, the timeframe for the predicted effects, and any considerations for uncertainties or other factors needed to set priorities. Adaptation actions required consent from the citizens who live, work, and play in the city, as well as decision makers who will have to provide approval, funding, or both in carrying out the selected actions. National Estuary Programs (NEPs) are very experienced with appropriate communication tools for their locales, and should be able to readily incorporate climate adaptation planning into ongoing information and education programs. However, in many places communication for climate adaptation may demand either a different approach or new expertise for the NEPs. In particular, some NEPs will be trying to develop alternatives to prevent future negative outcomes that are either uncertain or unimagined. Rather than returning to historic conditions of water quality or ecosystem health, citizens and officials may have to anticipate conditions that, as yet, have not manifested in the system. A ?multi-modal? communication strategy was utilized to address some of these unfamiliar concerns and to provide specific information on the actions that will be necessary in the Peace River watershed. Include information on how the most vulnerable stakeholder groups in the community were included the decision making process. When the opportunity to partner with the CHNEP and the SWFRPC arose, the City was ready with Comprehensive Plan policies that allowed for the partnership. The City?s progressive actions had included climate change planning in their Comprehensive Plan. The objective and policy are listed below. City of Punta Gorda Comprehensive Plan Climate Change Objective and Policy: Objective 2.4.2: Address the impacts of sea level rise, and seek strategies to combat its effects on the shoreline of the City. Policy The City will work with the SWFRPC to determine potential sea level rise impacts on the Coastal Planning Area. Measurement: Completion and implementation of developed coastal studies or development of model scenarios. With the policy in place, the City worked through the CHNEP and SWFRPC staff on adaptation planning. A series of three public meetings was decided upon, the first one to be held on April 9, 2009, followed by other meetings on June 2, 2009 and September 6, 2009. Since this effort was supported by the grant from EPA, fundraising for meeting space and other aspects was not a factor, but may be in other situations, something to be taken into consideration. Outreach, using CHNEP?s press contacts, resulted in newspaper articles and interviews on local television news that helped publicize the first meeting. Also, the CHNEP and SWFRPC websites featured the event prominently, email ?blasts? were sent out to regular subscribers of CHNEP E-news, and postcards were mailed to CHNEP supporters living in the Punta Gorda area. CHNEP hosted online registration for the meeting, but phone registration was also available and walk-ins were accepted. First Public Workshop: space was donated by the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association and the SWFRPC underwrote the refreshments. Contacts in the city staff as well as Team Punta Gorda advised that morning meetings would draw the most participants, so the meeting on April 9 was scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Thirty eight people attended, which, according to local expertise, was a good turnout. The participants included residents, people who work in the city, city staff, and seasonal visitors. Some represented specialized groups, like recreational fishermen. The attendees were asked to fill out a questionnaire when they came in which provided demographic information as well as the respondent?s opinions and observations about climate, wildlife and storms in Punta Gorda. The survey and raw data can be found in the Appendix of the approved Climate Adaptation Plan. Survey Results: The results of the survey showed that most of the participants live in Punta Gorda year round and have been in Florida an average of 22 years. Most were from the 33950 ZIP code, indicating that they live in or near the downtown area. Most of the people who work, work in that same ZIP code. Most respondents thought that winters in Florida are becoming drier and cooler and that summers are becoming drier and warmer. Of those with an opinion, respondents generally thought that fishing in Charlotte Harbor is declining, that water quality in the Harbor is declining, that water quality in the canals of Punta Gorda is declining, and that the presence of wildlife in Punta Gorda is decreasing. It should be noted that a significant number of respondents were not sure about changes in those conditions. Most people did not feel that storms are getting more severe or frequent, but a majority felt that they expected weather to get worse in the future. A large percentage of the attendees felt weather would stay the same. Almost all respondents reported damage to their property from Hurricane Charley in 2004, ranging from roof and structural damage to loss of vegetation and landscaping. Most people had responded to that damage by fixing and/or upgrading roofs, windows, and garage doors, purchasing generators and shutters, and adapting their landscaping to absorb more rainfall and be less vulnerable to high winds. Many people listed other improvements they would like to make, but, for most, cost is the limiting factor. Respondents also listed things local, state and federal government could do differently to be better prepared for storms, droughts and floods in the future. Those suggestions included ?intelligent growth? physically raising the elevations of certain local roads, improved water resource planning, public education, improved evacuation routes, irrigation restrictions, improved wetland protections, better forecasting and improved communications. Three presentations were given before the participants were broken up into small groups for discussion. The first presentation was given by Dr. Lisa Beever of the CHNEP, giving the background of the project and the CHNEP?s role. The second presentation was given by myself, reviewing the city?s concern with climate change, especially sea level rise, in the wake of the devastation from Hurricane Charley in 2004. The final presentation was by Jim Beever of the SWFRPC, who gave a primer on climate in southwest Florida and the implications of climate change for the area. These presentations are also contained in the Appendix of the City?s approved Adaptation Plan. With all this background, the participants were divided up into several small groups of no more than eight, lead by a CHNEP or SWFRPC facilitator. Dr. Beever introduced the small group activity, which involved: ? The Vulnerability Game, ? The Adaptation Game, ? The Acceptability Game The Vulnerability Game: was designed after a frame game called Group Scoop, originally Group Grope. Group Scoop and the concept of frame games were designed by Dr. Sivasailam ?Thiagi? Thiagarajan. A frame game is a tested training game where one can insert their own content. For the Vulnerability Game, participants were allowed to form their own groups and were given as many index cards as they could use. They were asked to individually brainstorm climate change vulnerabilities that they and City of Punta Gorda faced. Each idea was put on a separate card. After 10 minutes, the cards were collected, shuffled, and three to five cards dealt to each participant. Remaining cards were put in the middle. Each participant had to pick and discard vulnerabilities so that they had the three to five most serious vulnerabilities in their hand. The remaining cards were removed. Then, the participants shared their cards with each other and, as a group, selected the most important three to five vulnerabilities. Group Grope has been used in other venues by CHNEP to replace scribing ideas on an easel pad. The game is quicker because individuals are concurrently writing ideas. Other benefits include greater ownership of ideas, ability to quickly consolidate high ranked ideas, and inability for participants to be passive. The Adaptation Game: was based on another frame game called Envelopes. The top three to five vulnerabilities from the previous game were written on separate 8? x 10? envelopes. The envelopes were distributed among the group members. Each participant brainstormed alternative possible adaptations on individual index cards and placed the cards in the envelope. After a couple minutes, group members traded envelopes. Each member was able to contribute adaptation ideas to their envelopes. Group members were also encouraged to include ideas that they may not necessarily agree with, so that they might have the opportunity to reject them. The Acceptability Game: was conducted with the participants reassembled in the main room. During the break, staff reviewed the envelopes and similar vulnerabilities from different groups were collapsed. As each vulnerability (from the envelopes) was called out, participants showed a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways to show the level of their agreement for addressing the vulnerability in the adaptation plan. The intent of the game was to gain a sense of agreement for each of the adaptation measures. However, the method took longer than the time allocated. Staff offered to develop a survey instrument from the Adaptation Game to be posted on the CHNEP website. Second Public Workshop was held on June 2, 2009. It was scheduled to review various adaptation strategy scenarios developed with input from earlier workshop and on-line questionnaires. The agenda featured one major activity- a board game. The purpose of the game was to identify general support or lack of support for adaptation options. The adaptation options presented had been identified by participants of the first public workshop and were identified from the literature. ?The Adaptation Game? is an original creation for this public workshop. The game board was created in ArcGIS from aerial imagery and provided additional information such as storm surge zones and critical facilities. All areas considered for annexation, as well as existing city facilities outside of the city limits, are shown. The board included an inset for an enlargement of downtown. The board also included two ?parking lots,? one for city-wide adaptations and one for adaptations the participant recommends against. The board was 34 x 44 inches in size for easy viewing and space for the ?parking lot? answers. The game pieces were ?EcoFriendly White Return Address Labels? printed from a word processing file. Adaptation options from the first workshop were grouped by the major vulnerabilities identified at the first workshop. Potential adaptations identified by participants had a white background and additional adaptations identified in the literature had a yellow background. This was done so that the participants would know the source of the adaptation and show that we predominately used their earlier work. The font for each adaptation was adjusted in size so each would be as large as possible. The original lists were made available to the participants over the break so that they could familiarize themselves with the list of adaptations and make initial selections. These sheets were easier to read because of the consistent font size and became a useful tool for the participants. Six tables were set up with a game board, duplicate sheets of game labels, and a tabletop name tent identifying which vulnerability or group of related vulnerabilities that table represented. Each table had a separate set of game labels that were related to the vulnerability or group of related vulnerabilities. Participants were allowed to go to the table of their choosing and spend as much time at any individual table that they chose. Most participants were able to visit all the tables in the time available. This strategy allowed adequate room for the participants and allowed for easy sorting of the chosen adaptations. Participants were asked to place adaptations from the sheets onto the map where the adaptation should take place. If they wanted the adaptation to apply city-wide, they would ?park? the label in the city-wide box. If they didn?t like an adaptation, they ?parked? the label in the box named ?Adaptations I Recommend Against.? By counting the number of times any particular adaptation was chosen, relative support for that adaptation could be determined. Likewise, undesirable adaptations were documented. The resulting information allowed the CHNEP and the SWFRPC proceed with the Vulnerability Assessment and the City of Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan based on the information that was gathered from the stakeholders: citizens; construction, business, real estate, and agricultural interests; retirees; families; emergency services; city and county government and more. The City of Punta Gorda has already undertaken a variety of affirmation adaptation actions that will assist in reducing the impacts form climate change and increasing resiliency to climate change effects. These include elevation of structure and improvements of drainage systems as part of the City?s recovery from the impacts of Hurricane Charley; relocation of the public works facility to a location of lower hazard from natural disasters and coastal flooding, adoption of a Transfer of Development Rights program to protect historical and natural resource areas, and a completed Local Mitigation Strategy for natural disasters. Include partners/organizations who were involved in supporting the solution and their roles. 1.) Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP): Responsible for partnering with the City through the Department of Environmental Protection National Estuary Program. The CHNEP Policy Committee added a climate change adaptation component to its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), adopted on March 24, 2008. This set the stage for the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Region 4 to fund CHNEP and, its host agency, the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) to conduct a vulnerability assessment concerning CHNEP?s seven-county study area. EPA Headquarters then named Charlotte Harbor one of six Climate Ready Estuary (CRE) pilot programs. CHNEP and SWFRPC planned to partner with a city to develop an adaptation plan through a project entitled: Development of a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for a Southwest Florida City. Due to existing policies included in the City of Punta Gorda specifically addressing sea level rise, Punta Gorda was chosen as the southwest Florida City. 2.) Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council: Responsible fro the research work and was completion of the Vulnerability Assessment Technical Report 09-3 and the City of Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan Technical Report 09-4 3.) Team Punta Gorda: a citizen stakeholder group, ( Team Punta Gorda was initially formed as a grass-roots organization working on recovery following Hurricane Charley. 4.) Stakeholders: citizens; construction, business, real estate, and agricultural interests; retirees; families; emergency services; city and county government and more. Length of implementation. This is an ongoing programing and the City believes that the success of the strategic policies are based on the small incremental steps taken as opportunities arise. With a very active community, the City works with the residents and visitors alike on a regular basis. The strategies are discussed at meetings and there are no major changes from the City?s Annual Strategic Plan. As opportunities arise the City takes the occasion to bring the issues to the community and get their support on a variety of issues. Include current management systems used to support the solution. The City actively works with the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinances, Building Codes and Land Use Regulations. In addition, updates are provided to the various Advisory Committees and regular meeting are held with the representatives of the numerous homeowner and business groups in the City. Through careful implementation the City of Punta Gorda has already undertaken a variety of affirmation adaptation actions that will assist in reducing the impacts from climate change and increasing resiliency to climate change effects. These adaptation actions include elevation of structure and improvements of drainage systems as part of the City?s recovery from the impacts of Hurricane Charley; relocation of the public works facility to a location of lower hazard from natural disasters and coastal flooding, adoption of a Transfer of Development Rights program to protect historical and natural resource areas, and a completed Local Mitigation Strategy for natural disasters.

Climate hazard of concern: 
Sea level rise
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the ecosystem affected?: 

In the City?s Adaptation Plan it states: ?The City of Punta Gorda is currently experiencing climate change. The natural setting of the City coupled with extensive infrastructure investment in the areas closest to the coast have placed the City at the forefront of geographic areas that will be among the first to suffer the negative effects of a changing climate. Severe tropical storms and hurricanes with increased wind speeds and storm surges have already severely damaged the community.? Dr. Jim Beever further states, that the significant losses of mature mangrove forest, water quality degradation, and barrier island geomorphic changes have already occurred in the adjacent Charlotte Harbor. His research identifies longer, more severe dry season droughts coupled with shorter duration wet seasons consisting of higher volume precipitation will generate a pattern of drought and flood impacting both natural and man-made ecosystems. Even in the lowest impact future climate change scenario predictions, the future for the City will include increased climate instability; wetter wet seasons; drier dry seasons; more extreme hot and cold events; increased coastal erosion; continuous sea-level rise; shifts in fauna and flora with reductions in temperate species and expansions of tropical invasive exotics; increasing occurrence of tropical diseases in plants, wildlife and humans; destabilization of aquatic food webs including increased harmful algae blooms; increasing strains upon and costs in infrastructure; and increased uncertainty concerning variable risk assessment with uncertain actuarial futures. The City must be thinking and acting when possible to implement the adaptations as we move forward in planning for the future. While residents of the City greatly value the natural resources provided by the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor such as excellent fishing, scenic vistas and a myriad of other nature-based recreational opportunities, historic development patterns have limited or destroyed significant portions of critical wetland habitats. As sea level rise and increased storm surges and coastal flooding occurs this loss of coastal vegetation and mangroves in certain areas of the City will result in higher exposure to these climate hazards. In implementing the various climate adaptation strategies the City always tries to partner with agencies and organizations like the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council so the City may benefit from their knowledge and expertise. For example the City is currently working to re-establish an oyster reef along the City?s shoreline. Oysters, once abundant in the Charlotte Harbor estuary, provide vital functions to the health of an estuary by filtering nutrients, fine sediments and toxins from the water column. Oyster reefs also provide important habitat and food for numerous estuarine species, including mollusks, crustaceans, fish and birds. In addition to these ecosystem benefits, oyster reefs provide attenuation of wave action lessening the effects of coastal wave energy and reducing shoreline erosion thereby increasing the resilience of the community.

How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the ecosystem affected?: 

Mangrove Protection: The mangrove forests of south Florida are a vital component of the estuarine and marine environment, providing a major detrital base to organic food chains, significant habitat for arboreal, intertidal and subtidal organisms, nesting sites, cover and foraging grounds for birds, and habitat for some reptiles and mammals. The relationship between mangroves and their associated marine life cannot be overemphasized. The mangrove forest provides protected nursery areas for fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish that are important to both commercial and sport fisheries. The value and central role of mangroves in the ecology of south Florida has been well established by numerous scientific investigations directed at primary productivity, food web interactions, listed species, and support of sport and commercial fisheries. Mangroves are important in recycling nutrients and maintaining the nutrient mass balance of the estuarine ecosystem. They are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, in terms of primary or associated secondary biological productivity. Mangroves provide one of the basic food chain resources for arboreal life and nearshore marine life through their leaves, wood, roots, and detrital materials. This primary production forms a significant part of the base of the arboreal, estuarine, and marine food web. Mangroves have a significant ecological role as physical habitat and nursery grounds for a wide variety of marine/estuarine vertebrates and invertebrates. Many of these species have significant sport fishery and/or commercial fishery value. Fluctuations in sea level rise along the Florida peninsula can limit the distribution of mangroves, particularly if the rate of sea level rise exceeds the rate of mangrove forest growth and substrate accretion, and if the landward slopes provide no suitable habitat for forest retreat as sea level rises (Wanless 1998). Areas with seawalls behind mangrove habitat prevent such shoreline adjustment. The local distribution of mangroves is affected primarily by a variety of interacting factors that include microclimate, substrate type, tidal fluctuation, terrestrial nutrients, wave energy, and salt water. Sea level rise, shore erosion, interspecific competition, and seed dispersal also affect local distribution to a lesser degree. The interrelations of these factors can alter the intertidal distribution of mangrove species. Mangroves are unique in that their morphological specialization, such as aerial roots, vivipary, and salt excretion or excluding abilities allows them to adapt to these different rigorous environmental factors.

How has your solution increased the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt to potential climate changes?: 

The continued health of our estuary and the various plant and animal species that rely on it is vital to the sustainable existence of the local economy. The economy of the City is linked to its surrounding natural resources. Many restaurants and retail businesses rely on the health of our harbor to bring visitors from around the region and the world to come to the area to enjoy and learn about its ecological heritage. By raising people's concern and understanding of climate change, the City helps to gain public support for climate protection and adaptation efforts. We have also reviewed future maps showing where mangroves are likely to migrate. We have shared these maps in community meetings to help our community members understand that we can assist in facilitating mangrove adaptation to sea level rise by protecting areas in which the mangroves may need space to migrate into. We seek to maximize the adaptive capacity of existing mangroves by protecting the areas just upland of these mangroves.

How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the communities affected?: 

Homes and businesses will inevitably come in contact with sea level rise. By actively implementing and monitoring the planning strategies previously mentioned the community will be able to better determine how they want to proceed. Several additional strategies for the community include: 1. Increasing the strength of infrastructure designs and long-term investments ? e.g., by extending the range of temperature or precipitation a system can withstand without failure and changing the tolerance of loss or failure; 2. Increasing the flexibility of vulnerable managed systems ? e.g., by allowing mid-term adjustments (including changes of activities or location) and/or reducing economic lifetimes (including increasing depreciation); 3. Enhancing the adaptability of vulnerable natural systems ? e.g., by reducing other (non-climatic) stresses and removing barriers to migration (including establishing eco-corridors); 4. Reversing trends that increase vulnerability (also termed ?maladaptation?) ? e.g., by introducing setback lines for development in vulnerable areas, such as floodplains and coastal zones; and 5. Improving societal awareness and preparedness ? e.g., by informing the public of the risks and possible consequences of climate change and setting up early-warning systems.

How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the communities affected?: 

Conflicts will arise between sustaining natural coastal habitats and coastal private property, since current activities of protecting private shoreline property from erosion with hardening and placement of fill will become increasingly injurious to sub-tidal, littoral, and wetland habitats if continued as climate changes and sea level rises. Mangrove ecosystems of the CHNEP are particularly threatened by climate change. As identified in the City?s Adaptation Plan, based on available evidence, of all the climate change outcomes, relative sea level rise may be the greatest threat to mangroves (Gilman et al.2008). The initiatives the City is currently engaged in undertaking, namely mangrove protection and oyster reef restoration are specifically designed to lessen these adverse impacts of climate change. It is the City?s goal to adapt to climate change as much as possible with win-win solutions that benefit both the natural ecosystems and the human socio-economic systems as they are inexorably linked. In addition, the City relies on the partnership it has built with TEAM Punta Gorda. The City values the partnership that has formed between the grass-roots group and the valuable assistance they provide. Created in 2004 in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Charley, they are a vital link in future planning. Their purpose is to ?Bring together residents, business and property owners, and government officials to rebuild and revitalize greater Punta Gorda.? With over 2,000 people from all over Charlotte County, they make Punta Gorda a truly unique and special place.

How has your solution increased the capacity of local communities to adapt to potential climate changes?: 

By working with the various agencies and organizations the City has developed strong positive ties with many regional, state, federal agencies as well as non-governmental organizations. The City continues to increase the knowledge of the local community by the number of public workshops and meetings held in the City. Through the City?s Comprehensive Plan updates, and land development revisions, the City maintains an active role in identifying climate threats and adaptation strategies at the local level. In addition Staff, the City Council and the Advisory Committees are active at county and state level in addressing the City?s opportunities and challenges regarding climate adaptation. The attendance of staff to other meetings outside the City, increase our knowledge enhancing our ability to compete for numerous programs and grants to assist in a variety of potential solutions. The partnership with The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council are prime examples of how the openness to the adoption of climate change strategies benefits the City and increases the capacity of the local community to adapt. The City utilizes the Strategic Plan as well as the numerous public meetings to increase the local knowledge of this impending issue. The City is confident that it will continue to provide educational information to the community on sea level rise.

Can this solution be replicated elsewhere?: 

Yes. Looking at the detailed program provided in Section 2, the CHNEP has provided a detailed account of how to communicate with the stakeholders. By utilizing the public workshop activities and workshop format, the program can be tailored to fit the stakeholders a group is trying to engage. What made this program innovative was that the stakeholders were responsible for providing the base for the study. They identified the vulnerabilities to the City that would be included in the Adaptation Plan. They assisted in the design of the product in a prioritized manner that was important to them.

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