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Team Members: Narcisa G. Pricope (University of North Carolina Wilmington and Mississippi State University), Leah Mayo (University of North Carolina Wilmington), Joanne Halls (University of North Carolina Wilmington), Crystal Dixon (Wake Forest University), Elijah Dalton (University of North Carolina Wilmington)

Executive Summary: Coastal environments are essential ecosystems that play vital ecological roles and supply a wide array of ecosystem services, including flood control, especially in low-lying regions at the land-water interface. Coastal communities frequently impacted by natural hazards can face extensive and recurrent flood inundation and subsequent infrastructure damage with immediate and long-term detrimental effects on disadvantaged communities. Effective and adaptive coastal resiliency planning is becoming more necessary as the frequency and intensity of storms increase and coastal populations expand. Furthermore, climate change has disproportionate impacts on underserved and disadvantaged communities, with serious implications for equity and environmental justice. In this co-designed project, we will develop a green infrastructure suitability model in consultation with community groups to prioritize areas of implementation of nature-based solutions (NbSs) in a highly urbanized tidally influenced coastal county of the US Atlantic Coastal Plain region that is home to multiple disadvantaged communities at recurrent risk from flooding. Our project will develop a replicable methodology that establishes the evidence base for the effectiveness of NbSs and green infrastructure in flood-vulnerable coastal watersheds and determines the feasibility of incorporating cutting-edge community engagement techniques into NbS implementation prioritization. Our community and workshop implementation partners include the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Wilmington and the New Hanover County Stormwater Engineering Department, North Carolina. Our specific objectives include the development of a cloud-computed, replicable remote sensing and GIS-based green infrastructure suitability index (GISI) index, an environmental justice vulnerability index (at the block group level) using community-identified dimensions of environmental justice (EJ) with relevance to coastal planning for flood mitigation and adaptation measures, as well as an analysis of chronic areas of underserved communities; and thirdly, we will use community engagement techniques (focus groups, and/or community workshops) to elicit community input and feedback along four prioritization categories both during the development of the GISI and at the conclusion of the modeling efforts in order to prioritize solutions and produce implementation suggestions while engaging in community education on climate change impacts on EJ neighborhoods and green infrastructure as an adaptation strategy.

The final outcomes of this project will include a community feasibility study proposing a reproducible and transferable methodology for identifying suitable NbS locations as a function of location, exposure to risk, socio-demographic makeup of the area and satellite remote sensing data on the one hand and, on the other, the perceptions, feedback and input of potentially targeted communities in terms of prioritization and education around possible implementation solutions.