2019 Program Archive: The Resilient Infrastructure Spectrum: Innovative Opportunities and Complex Challenges in Cities

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The Resilient Infrastructure Spectrum: Innovative Opportunities and Complex Challenges in Cities

Nishant Parulekar
City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services
Time Slot: 
Concurrent Sessions 5
Session Type: 

Developing climate resilient infrastructure is a critical issue facing municipalities today. Local governments experiencing impacts from extreme heat, precipitation variability, sea level rise, and other natural disasters are working to implement innovative solutions that span from small-scale building retrofits to large-scale levees and sea walls. Although often faced with common challenges such as political will and funding, local governments are actively prioritizing efforts that both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also enhancing community resilience. Participants in this session will share their successes and challenges related to the planning, design, and implementation of resilient infrastructure projects. Join USDN members from Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Providence, the Philadelphia Water Department, and San Diego to learn more about innovative approaches to resilient water, stormwater, and urban heat projects. Learn about ways cities are using scenarios to better prepare community members and elected officials to make a significant investment in infrastructure such as hurricane barriers and better understand the complex process to rebalance power and center decision-making with those who are most at-risk so infrastructure investments won’t exacerbate inequities.

Cross-Cutting Themes: 
Future-Hunting: Infrastructure Resilience Planning Under Uncertainty
Nishant Parulekar, City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services
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The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) is working to become a resilient utility by reducing vulnerabilities to natural disasters through strategic improvements to its wastewater and stormwater systems. As global temperatures increase, the Pacific Northwest is predicted to experience warmer winters and more intense rainfall, which could lead to more extreme events, greater runoff, and more severe urban flooding. The traditional planning paradigm typically selects one or more alternative scenarios based on highest likelihood and conservative assumptions. However, when faced with vast uncertainty and extreme scenarios, this traditional approach is insufficient. While we can take advantage of the latest global and regional climate models, projections cannot be wholly relied upon to predict the future due to a cascade of compounding uncertainty. In response to this challenge, BES piloted a “stress testing” technique as a quantitative system vulnerability analysis testing system performance over a wide range of future conditions. BES also used “scenario planning” to evaluate impacts that are not quantifiable, but which are still plausible. The results are being used to evaluate potential improvements and strategies that are robust, in that they perform well across a wide range of future conditions.

City of Providence
Leah Bamberger, City of Providence
Collaborative Planning for a Resilient San Diego
Julia Chase, City of San Diego
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The City of San Diego recognizes that climate adaptation is a core component of its overall response to climate change. In 2015, the City adopted its Climate Action Plan (CAP) which outlines actions to reduce the creation of greenhouse gases as well as calling for an actionable climate adaptation plan to assess the risks and vulnerabilities and develop strategies to prepare the City for a suite of climate change related hazards. The Planning Department is currently developing the City’s Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan that will address potential impacts sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding, precipitation events, extreme heat, and wildfires on City assets and infrastructure. Given the complexity and uncertainty of climate adaptation planning, the City has undertaken extensive and varied stakeholder outreach. This presentation will outline various methods of internal and external engagement and collaboration to provide for the integration of climate change planning across City departments, support regional buy-in, and enhance community preparedness.

Creating Actionable Climate Change Science to Inform Infrastructure Planning and Design Practices
Julia Rockwell, Philadelphia Water Department
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The Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) at the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is responsible for identifying the most urgent climate-related risks that the utility will face and adaptation strategies to address these risks. There is scientific consensus that climate change impacts in Philadelphia will include more rain, higher air temperatures and rising sea levels, all of which may pose challenges to the operation and management of PWD stormwater, wastewater and drinking water systems. Given the climate-related risks that utilities will face, it is necessary to bridge the gap between climate change science and the information needed to support the planning and design of resilient infrastructure. While Global Climate Models (GCMs) can simulate future conditions on global and regional scales with increasing confidence, there are still challenges associated with using climate projections for local water resource management applications. This presentation will provide examples of methods that PWD developed to create actionable climate projections that water resource planners and engineers can use to ensure the future functioning and reliability of infrastructure systems.