Yankeetown – Inglis Adaptive Design Report

Planning for sea level rise in rural communities is a diverse challenge, and the Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County project has responded with diverse solutions. Most recently, the Yankeetown-Inglis Adaptive Design Report puts forward possible adaptation strategies for coastal change that are specific to the towns of Yankeetown and Inglis. This first step to understanding the potential spatial implications of sea level rise projections will enable the communities to further consider a range of options for adaptation.

The report covers the research process used to gather and analyze geographic and demographic data, modeling results, and public input, which resulted in multiple, interrelated adaptive design strategies. The adaptive design strategies are tailored to six identified geographic areas, called Adaptation Areas (AA’s). The AA’s differ in their adaptation requirements due to factors such as position in relation to water, topography, storm surge risk, existing infrastructure and development, and jurisdictions and current land use policies. The report also presents many informative maps, photographs displaying the distinctive character and ecology of both Yankeetown and Inglis, a glossary of important terminology, and an appendix further illustrating many adaptation strategy examples.

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Identified Adaptation Areas in Yankeetown and Inglis, Florida

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Adaptation Strategies for the Natural Environment

As we plan for the impacts of sea level rise and the changes it will bring to coastlines such as those in Levy County, additional focus must be turned to preserving the natural environment. Florida’s coastline is made up of multiple ecosystems that feature significant biodiversity, protect land and water in the interior, act as centers for ecotourism and commercial operations, and provide recreational enjoyment for many. To understand the critical region that coastlines represent within the natural environment, project researchers have looked to data involving strategies to protect these areas at both the larger landscape scale as well as work with individual focal species.

At its core, natural system adaptation strategies are concerned with ecosystem health. An ecosystem can be broadly defined by the balance of flora and fauna with the nonliving components around them (such as water and minerals in the soil). Changes within the system, even subtle ones, can have long-lasting and sometimes devastating effects on many species. Sea level rise has already begun to put pressure upon coastal ecosystems and future projections show many areas to be vulnerable to further habitat loss. Scientific efforts have been made to establish a baseline for existing ecological conditions along Florida’s coastline and river systems so that critical regions under threat can be identified and strategies to increase their resilience can be put into action. Examples of resiliency efforts can take the form of managing species populations, mitigating wildfires, limiting development, and combating invasive species.

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The USGS is just one example of a science-based organization utilizing historical data (such as the Suwanee River Basin map above) along with current ecological trends to plan for environmental health initiatives.  The tidal wetlands along the Big Bend of Florida have been part of such historic impact studies.

In addition to some of the approaches highlighted above, the threat of sea level rise often requires a number of specific adaptation strategies to be considered. Coastal restoration involves rebuilding and stabilizing shorelines that have already deteriorated, most often because of human interference. Traditionally, built solutions such as seawalls and bulkheads have been used but these can often prevent coastlines from shifting naturally thereby exacerbating problems of erosion and habitat loss. Instead, “soft” solutions can be utilized in many cases which allow for the accumulation of sediment in a more natural manner. Options such as beach re-nourishment, oyster reef enhancement, sediment control, pollution reduction, and the restoration of wetlands that have been dredged can bring back naturally occurring ecosystems which buffer inland areas from storm surge and general erosion.

Beginning in 2010, the U.S. EPA was tasked specifically with developing a Gulf Coast Restoration Plan which addresses climate change and many other environmental stresses which Florida faces (http://www.epa.gov/gcertf/).

Habitat migration corridors address the threat of fragmenting ecosystems which leave migratory species, such as terns, black bears, and sea turtles, at serious risk.  Additionally, such corridors allow salt marshes and wetland forests to gradually shift inland as sea level rises. Migratory corridors are key for the adaptive capacity of many intertidal and coastal ecosystems to function. Prohibiting new development is often central to this strategy and conservation easements can be an effective method of protection. More information on migration corridors and how they are identified can be found on our additional project website for Matanzas Basin at http://planningmatanzas.org/faqs/.

The National Geographic Society, along with various conservation partners, recently published a documentary regarding Florida’s natural ecosystems and migration corridors.  The Florida Wildlife Corridor highlights the relationship and interdependence that coastal and inland ecosystems have on one another (http://www.floridawildlifecorridor.org/about/).

Where a population is unable to migrate and adapt fast enough to sea level rise species translocation is an option whereby the focal species is relocated to a similar, protected environment. Typically a last resort in conservation, species can be relocated from areas that have suffered significant habitat loss where restoration is physically or financially improbable to conserved areas where they can rebound. This is a delicate process that requires considerable justification, planning, and oversight. In extreme circumstances, the option to establish seed/gene banks for a species on the verge of extinction is a sad but viable option.

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The Florida scrub-jay is an example of a species where habitat loss has placed it under significant threat.  Successful translocation efforts have been conducted  by the Brevard Zoo for example and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines highlight the considerations and complexity involved in such a task.

The Center for Landscape Conservation Planning at the University of Florida has multiple projects underway that inform adaptation strategies in the natural environment – including involvement in the Florida Wildlife Corridor Project highlighted earlier. Other examples include the CLIP project which is assisting planners by identifying conservation and land use priorities. This information can, in turn, be overlapped with areas most at risk for sea level so that planners are better informed on areas where the fastest and most important actions are needed. Furthermore, forecast models for population growth in Florida and future land use assist in planning for integrated strategies for sea level rise that combine efforts in both the natural and built environment.

Click on an images above to enlarge.  While the CLIP project is an ongoing effort, important data results are already informing planners.  Notice, for example, how biodiversity and landscape resource ‘hotspots’ overlap in the images above.  The waterfront of Levy County is among one of many coastal locations found to be a high priority landscape by CLIP data. (http://www.fnai.org/pdf/CLIP2_Executive_Summary.pdf).

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The Art of Understanding Coastal Change

There are many ways to communicate important matters of concern and ideas for discussion within the communities we live in.  One of the oldest methods and, arguably, most engaging is through art.  Motivating members of a community to understand the importance of coastal change issues is a task anyone can be involved in, but artists are uniquely positioned to reach people on an emotional level which figures and charts typically cannot.

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Project lead Dr. Kathryn Frank and team member Sarah Thompson discuss sea level rise with local artists at the Cedar Key Arts Center.

With this in mind, the Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County project has reached out to local artists to provide their unique perspective on the challenges of sea level rise and coastal change.  Project team member Sarah Thompson has been working with Cedar Key Arts Center director Amy Gernhardt to bring together a group of interested artists to begin the outreach project.  On Friday, November 15th the project team and local artists met for the first time to begin discussing coastal change issues in more detail and establish the goals of the art project.

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The coastal tour makes a stop at an information kiosk at the shell mounds near Cedar Key.  Discussion centers around how the estuary ecosystem will be impacted by sea level rise and the threats that native species will face.

IMG_1583Participating artists stroll into the woods of the Lower Suwanee.  Bordering rivers that feed directly into the Gulf of Mexico, forest wetlands such as these will potentially undergo great changes as salinity levels and coastal ecosystems migrate further inland over time.

Despite cold, rainy conditions the art group braved the elements on a tour of numerous locales where sea level rise impacts will be felt within and around Cedar Key.  Various areas through the Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, and the city of Cedar Key itself were highlighted for discussion.  The tour was an open forum for participating artists to voice questions and concerns about sea level rise with their fellow community members and the project team.  It also served as an opportunity for the artists to begin considering the subject matter of their art piece in greater detail.  There was a general consensus of concern over the threats of sea level rise but an optimism that the communities of Levy County are resilient and will adapt to the coming changes.

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Sue Colson, previous Cedar Key mayor and commissioner, discusses the challenges the city has already faced in terms of sea level rise and the importance of preparing for the future. 

Please visit our ‘Artists‘ and ‘Events‘ webpage for more information and stay tuned for more details of the coming art exhibit in February 2014.

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Oral History of Coastal Change

Earlier this year, project researchers spoke with Levy County residents who were kind enough to share their time and stories on what they had personally encountered regarding coastal change.  As long-time local residents, the interviewees are uniquely positioned to comment on the gradual changes they have witnessed within the area.  Sea level rise is a slow, but constantly mounting problem and such insights are a valuable way to gather first-hand knowledge of these changes-over-time and a more intimate picture of how daily life,  local economy, and rural culture is beginning to be impacted.  The results of these interviews have been documented in the form of an oral history video which we are pleased to share below.

Special thanks to the participating residents of Levy County, Florida Sea Grant, and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.

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Adaptation Strategies for the Built Environment

There are several types of sea level rise adaptation strategies that are used in the planning process to assist coastal communities. Strategies for the built environment can be categorized into three groups based on their objectives:

1. Accommodation – Accommodation strategies adapt to rising water levels through design measures such as elevation or stormwater improvements. They do not prevent flooding or inundation and are suitable for location-dependent structures. Elevating residential homes is an accommodation option used along the coast in the Levy County.

raisedhomecedarkeyElevating residential homes along the coast in Cedar Key is an accommodation strategy.

2. Protection – Protection strategies mitigate the impacts of rising seas through defensive mechanisms. Armoring is a “hard” structural strategy that is used often in historically significant areas. Seawalls and riprap are used in certain parts of Levy County to protect development. Beach renourishment is a “soft” protection strategy that is used by coastal communities to decrease vulnerability.

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Riprap is used to armor certain portions of Cedar Key’s shoreline against erosion from storm events. 

3. Planned Relocation – Planned relocation strategies involve the actual movement of development and infrastructure away from high risk areas. Prompting a relocation includes acquisition of vulnerable areas to prevent future development. Acquisition can occur through transfer of development rights, rollings easements, or conservation easements.

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Prior to 1896, Cedar Key’s community was located on Atsena Otie Key. The community retreated and rebuilt in Cedar Key after a hurricane wiped out the entire town. All that remains on its original site is a graveyard.

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A view of all three strategies over time.  Accommodation was the structure’s beginning and retreat was a decision at some point.  Protection can be seen in the foreground.

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Strategies are often combined along the coast.  Here accommodation is used for the buildings along the waterfront while a protective seawall buffers the roadway.

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Adaptive Strategies Workshop – Yankeetown and Inglis

gameOn July 11th, 2013, at the Inglis-Yankeetown Lion’s Club, community leaders and interested citizens gathered for a sea level rise adaptive strategies workshop led by principal investigator Dr. Kathryn Frank, project manager Michael Volk, and University of Florida graduate research assistants Sean Reiss, Rong Zeng, and Jana Rosenbloom. This is the first of two workshops that will be held during the summer of 2013 to identify potential sea level rise adaptation strategies for Yankeetown and Inglis. This first workshop included a presentation of areas in Yankeetown and Inglis that are vulnerable to sea level rise due to low elevation, and activities whereby participants noted areas of current impacts and planning priorities. Participants also formed small groups and engaged in a role-play game to identify preferred, consensus-based adaptation strategies for a hypothetical small coastal community. The project team greatly appreciated the thoughtful insights and contributions of workshop participants. The community input is actively guiding the next phase of work, which is the design of adaptive strategy options that will be presented to the public at a second local workshop in August. The presentation slides from the July workshop are available in the library page, and information about the upcoming second workshop will soon be provided on the events page.

We send two special thanks to Sondra Dame and the Inglis-Yankeetown Lion’s Club for letting us meet in their club, and to Karen Chadwick for sharing her workshop photos with us to include in this post.

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Photo top: Workshop participants play the adaptive strategies game.

Photo bottom: Results of the “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” (SWOT) discussion.

 

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Community Input on Adaptation Strategies

During the Spring 2013 Adaptive Design Studio, the project team met with Cedar Key and Rosewood community residents and stakeholders for workshop activities, design presentations, and interviews. Through these interactions, the project team captured local experiences and adaptation preferences. Community members in Cedar Key and Rosewood intimately know what it’s like to live and work on the coast. Many have grown up with an ever-changing coastline, and predictions of future change are no surprise, however the rates and types of changes have become a concern for the community. During discussions about maintaining community assets, many residents preferred “soft” strategies that are integrated with the natural environment, as opposed to “hard” engineering fixes such as sea walls, since preserving a healthy and beautiful landscape is critical to local economic sectors and ways of life. Innovative, integrated design of the built environment and infrastructure will be a key element of successful adaptation to sea level rise and other coastal change.

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Clam farming in the Cedar Key area is a profitable industry that relies on a healthy estuarine system. The estuarine water must contain the right nutrients, salinity, and water quality for the clams to thrive.

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