By: Adam Hosking, CH2M Global Technology Leader, Water Resources and Ecosystem Management

Adam presented the plenary session, “Global Experience with Coastal Resilience,” at the Coastal Zone Canada conference, held June 12-16, in Toronto, Canada. Adam’s presentation reviewed CH2M’s global experiences and lessons for delivering sustainable coastal resilience in Canada. He also participated in a panel discussion on “Delivering Integrated Resilience to Coastal Cities” with fellow CH2Mers Matthew Elliot and Tamineh Saadat, as well as Lisa Prime, an independent consultant and former client at Waterfront Toronto.

Coastal communities are facing unprecedented challenges as populations continue to increase at unprecedented rates, and more people are moving to coastal cities. Today, according to the United Nations, more than half the world’s population live in coastal zones and three quarters of large cities are on the coast. With present day flooding and coastal erosion hazards set to be exacerbated by future climate change, the risks facing coastal populations and infrastructure will increase. Aging flood and coastal protection infrastructure is further exacerbating these challenges, as structures reach the end of their useful life, and no longer offer the standard of protection they are designed for.

As we see these trends take shape in coastal communities, we are working side-by-side to help solve our clients’ biggest challenges, including planning, prioritizing, funding and coordinating critical flood protection projects. Taking an integrated approach, we are implementing multi-dimensional coastal resilience solutions to protect people and property in coastal communities around the world.

Our four-pronged approach includes:

  • Identifying solutions to manage hazards at the shoreline
  • Implementing solutions inland to improve resilience
  • Combining natural and hard infrastructure to protect coastlines and communities
  • Program management and planning for effective delivery of integrated solutions to keep communities safe

Looking across the major coastlines around the world, CH2M is applying this approach to make cities, like Toronto, New York, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, London and others, more resilient when it comes to protecting their people and property from extreme weather events. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast of the United States, we supported the New York City Department of Environmental Protection as part of a joint venture on the award-winning NYC Wastewater Resilience Plan to identify and quantify impacts of climate change on the city’s critical water infrastructure. In completing this study, an asset-by-asset analysis of the risks posed by storm surge under future sea-level rise scenarios was performed. The proactive investment in resiliency could avoid an estimated $2.5 billion in potential storm damage costs to the city’s vital infrastructure and communities they serve over the next 50 years.

Additionally, CH2M and The Nature Conservancy worked together on a “Coastal Risk Reduction: Integrating Natural Defenses into a Sustainable Coastal Risk Management Framework,” and completed the Howard Beach Flood Risk Reduction Study in Queens, New York, comparing the effectiveness and costs/benefits of a range of natural infrastructure (e.g. enhanced coastal marshes, trees to absorb rainfall runoff, etc.) and hard engineering solutions (e.g. flood gates; rock groins, etc.) under future climate scenarios. The study concluded that when used together, hard and natural infrastructure is more cost-effective than hard infrastructure alone and leads to environmental benefits as well.

Looking at coastal communities in Europe, CH2M is serving as the program manager of the Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100 Programme. Listed as one of the UK government’s Top 40 infrastructure projects, the Environment Agency is investing up to £300m on the tidal defences over the next 10 years, as recommended by the TE2100 plan. The Thames Estuary tidal flood defence system protects 1.25 million people and £200 billion of property and includes walls, embankments, flood gates, pumping stations, outfalls and major barriers on the River Thames and its tributaries. Significant investment is required to ensure that these assets continue to provide protection against flooding into the next century, despite rising sea levels. Wall raising and a new barrier will be required later this century, but the focus of the first 10 years of investment is on continuing maintenance and essential improvements to the assets, integrating environmental improvements for people and wildlife along the tidal Thames and optimizing investment over not just the 10 years of the programme, but over the next 100 years.

These examples and others demonstrate how taking a multi-dimensional approach to resiliency and coastal protection can actually become a competitive advantage for cities on the coast. To learn more about our coastal resiliency solutions, contact me.

Adam Hosking is CH2M’s Global Technology Leader, with responsibility for Water Resources and Ecosystem Management, including flood and coastal risk management and climate change adaptation services. A Fellow of the UK Institute of Water and Environmental Management and a Chartered Scientist, Adam has more than 20 years professional experience, including 5 years working in the USA. With a background in coastal geomorphology, Adam has focused on sustainable coastal risk management throughout his career. He has provided technical leadership for coastal resilience studies in many parts of the world, including the UK, Caribbean, USA, Middle East and Singapore. These projects have included leadership of the development of the industry guidance on the preparation of ‘Shoreline Management Plans’ in the UK,  development of the planning framework for the State of Louisiana’s 2007 ‘Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast’ and led resilience planning for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection following Hurricane Sandy.