Coastal Resilience Matters Across our Great State
By Deron Davis, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Georgia
As we reach the midpoint of another Georgia summer, many people are enjoying time on the coast with family and friends. From Tybee Island to St. Marys, the 100-mile Georgia coast plays a significant role in our state’s economy and in the quality of life of many residents. The Georgia coast boasts some of the best protected and least developed salt marshes, tidal creeks and barrier islands in the United States and offers diverse experiences in nature for people of all ages. The biodiverse coastline is revered for its beauty and its support of the state’s multimillion-dollar commercial fishing economy, international shipping and tourism. The Nature Conservancy in Georgia is proud of our legacy of work on the coast, which began in 1969 when we protected Wassaw, Wolf and Egg Islands.
Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season packed a punch, with three storms leaving devastation across the southeast, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Irma, which was downgraded to a tropical storm when it reached Georgia, caused flooding and property damage in several of Georgia’s coastal communities. Science and experience tell us that the frequency and intensity of storms will likely escalate, making the people and places along the Georgia coast increasingly vulnerable to flooding, storm-related winds and tidal surges.
That’s why The Nature Conservancy and partners are helping Camden County and other coastal communities understand and reduce their risk of flooding, learn about the value of nature-based solutions and plan for flooding scenarios.
More than 50 percent of Camden County’s land area is wetlands. The Conservancy and partners are developing concepts for a multipurpose online tool to help county decision-makers and community planners make smart growth decisions that adapt to the realities of extreme weather. The tool also will inform the local public of their flooding risk and actions they can take to reduce it.
Camden County’s location, abundant floodplains and anticipated population growth make it a perfect partner for our pilot project. We look forward to entering the next phase of the pilot and ultimately sharing a successful model with other coastal communities.
Natural solutions for coastal resilience are already being implemented in the form of living shorelines. This green infrastructure technique restores oyster habitat and protects the critically important salt marshes and shorelines that serve as storm protection along our coast. As we prepare for a changing coast, natural solutions will be effective and important ways to reduce risk while also meeting the diverse needs of communities.
Portions of this column originally appeared in The Nature Conservancy’s Nature magazine.
Featured photo (top): copyright Georgia Department of Economic Development.