District government officials launched a plan to prepare the city for the potential fallout from climate change, including dangerous heatwaves, severe storms and flooding.
City Administrator Rashad Young, Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden and Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) Director Tommy Wells presented the Climate Ready DC plan on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Riverside Healthy Living Center in Northwest.
The center sits along the Watts Branch tributary of the Anacostia River, an area identified in the plan as vulnerable to increased flooding due to climate change.
“As city administrator, it is my responsibility to ensure the District continues to operate and thrive in the face of an array of natural threats, many of which are increasing due to climate change,” Young said. “Without action, climate change threatens to disrupt our power grid, harm our economy, and cost lives. Climate Ready DC is our action plan to ensure the continued resilience and vitality of the District in light of these threats.”
The District partnered with climate science and technical experts to assess the risks climate change poses to the city’s infrastructure, public facilities and people.
Climate Ready DC identified 77 actions the District can take to reduce these risks.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in severe weather events including record-breaking heatwaves, rising tides along our rivers and the destructive 2012 derecho,” Wells said. “The good news is we are well on our way to building a climate ready city through ongoing efforts to expand our tree canopy, manage stormwater, and advance green buildings and infrastructure.”
Snowden, who focuses daily on economic growth of D.C. residents, said that climate change will have the greatest impact on the most economically and physically vulnerable residents.
“That is why Climate Ready DC includes strategies that will help build preparedness and strengthen communities while ensuring that our investments in climate resilience create economic opportunities for District residents,” she said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Baltimore District (USACE) also joined city officials to announce two new projects that they said will help reduce the risks of flooding.
A mapping tool will be first up, developed by USACE, the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.
It will allow government leaders, emergency managers and the public to view potential flood impacts during high-water events along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
A interagency initiative will be the second project started to build climate resilience throughout Watts Branch communities.
The DOEE and USACE said they will work together to assess existing and future flood risks, identify individual and watershed-wide strategies and neighborhood climate-resilience policies to reduce flood risks along Watts Branch.
“Addressing climate change is critical to the important work we do through water resources projects to help protect properties and save lives,” said Michael Schuster, chief of Planning and Environmental Services branch of USACE’s Baltimore District.
“High-risk flood zone areas like those within Watts Branch will likely expand even further considering the effects of climate change,” he said. “Flooding can have devastating impacts, especially when a vulnerable population is at risk, including the loss of jobs and displaced residents.
“We are fortunate to be able to leverage resources and expertise from several different agencies to be able to arm Watts Branch communities with information and strategies to help them reduce the increasing flood,” Schuster said.