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Analysis of Federal Mitigation Policy in the U.S.:
Mitigation Plans, Expenditures, Civic Engagement, and Local Capability (2008-2013)

The nation is making a major investment in hazard mitigation planning since adoption of the Federal Disaster Mitigation Act (DMA) of 2000. This Deparment of Homeland Security funded study involves a collaborative partnership between CSCD and the UNC Center for Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure and Emergency Management. The study examines the factors motivating local jurisdictions to voluntarily adopt DMA plans, and enact incentives/disincentives, and use federal funds to mitigate hazards resulting from the DMA plans. Mitigation includes avoidance of development in hazardous areas through land use planning, restoration and protection ecosystem serves that offer mitigation functions, and retrofit of infrastructure systems. The study will entail an examination of the variability of community mitigation efforts through indicators of the planning process that include civic engagement, local jurisdiction commitment to mitigation, availability and quality of scientific information on vulnerability, strength of state mitigation plans and programs, severity of local risk, and prior disaster losses. The study will also include community demonstration sites will be the focus of application best practices for building local capability to plan and advance mitigation through the use of state-of-the-art public engagement techniques that include visualization techniques, hazards modeling and mapping, and other means to assess the influence of infrastructure systems on real estate development decisions.

This study is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC) research lead, housed at the UNC Hazards Center.

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Flood Risk Reduction Colloquium
Delft University, Netherlands, July 22-25, 2013

Netherlands Canal

Nowhere is the issue of flood risk and resiliency more prevalent than in coastal communities along the Gulf of Mexico. In recognition of this, Texas A&M University at Galveston and Delft University partnered to hold a colloquium on flood risk reduction in the Netherlands during the summer of 2013. Graduate students and faculty members, from both institutions representing a diversity of disciplines, came together for four days to share their ongoing research and develop a joint future research agenda on coastal flood risk reduction within the two countries. The colloquium agenda included a mixture of research presentations and field trips to assess specific flood mitigation. Throughout the colloquium, the participants explained different aspects of their work and its relationship to flood risk management. Special attention was paid to the application of Dutch practices to the Houston-Galveston area.

At the conclusion of the colloquium, participants agreed to initiate a bi-national research program on flood risk reduction. The proposed conceptual framework guiding the research starts with a better understanding of flood risk and ends with concerted policy recommendation and visualization of mitigation alternatives. Specific projects within this program will address the overarching research question: How to most effectively reduce flood risk/impact in a multi-hazard, integrated, coastal system?

In the short-term, participants will continue to leverage existing projects, continue student international exchange, and pursue a follow-up workshop in Texas. Also, case studies in both countries will be identified for more detailed analysis. Lastly, joint peer reviewed publications stemming from existing research will be pursued over the 2013-14 academic year. Longer-term activities will involve the pursuit of joint funding for projects that will advance the conceptual framework. Through concerted research and educational initiatives, program participants will form a better understanding of how to reduce the adverse impacts of floods in coastal regions.

Duration: July 22-25, 2013, Delft University, Netherlands
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF), the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores, Delft University, Sea Lion Technologies, Inc., and George Mitchell Chairs.
PI:  Dr. Sam Brody
Attendees: Alexandra Stiles, (TAMUG); Antonia Sebastian, (Rice University); Cherie Coffman, (TAMUG); Jens Figlus, (TAMUG); Morgan Wilson, (TAMU); Patrick Doty, (TAMU); Peter de Vries, (TU Delft / TAMUG); Robert Whalin, (Jackson State University); Russell Blessing, (TAMUG); Sam Brody, (TAMUG); Thomas Richardson, (Jackson State University); William Merrell, (TAMUG)

Examining the Relationship between Land Use Change,
Wetland Alteration, and Carbon Sequestration in the Gulf of Mexico

Beyond recreation, fishing and shipping, coastal wetlands have immense value. Salt marshes, mangroves, and sea-grass beds absorb large quantities of the greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it.  This interaction decreases the rate of global climate change. Now, some scientists are concerned that these natural carbon-storage banks are at risk due to shifts in natural and human made systems. Texas A&M scientists recognize that managing these systems for their carbon sequestration (storage) potential, can help balance human influences on the global carbon cycle, and in turn, on the climate.

TAMUG researchers are examining the relationship between land-use change, wetland alteration and carbon sequestration (storage) on the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

They are investigating climate-induced changes that transform mangroves to salt marshes as well as human-made impacts that transform coastal systems. By collecting field calibrations and analyzing remote sensing imagery, researchers can establish a timeline for the loss and gain of carbon storage capacity in estuarine wetlands—the transition zones between rivers and the oceans.

Research findings about these interactions can provide resource managers, policy development and decision-makers with information about conditions of the Texas coast.

Duration: 2011-2013
Funding Agency: NASA
Funding Amount: $398,857
PI: Patrick Louchouarn, (TAMUG)
Co-PIs: Anna Armitage, (TAMU-TAMUG); Samuel Brody, (TAMU-TAMUG) ; Wesley Highfield, (TAMUG).
Research Assistants:
Hee Ju Kim, (TAMU-TAMUG); Matt Norwood (TAMU-TAMUG)

Examining the 100-year Floodplain as a
Metric of Risk, Loss, and Household Adjustment 

Recent evidence suggests that the 100-year floodplain—the primary marker of flood risk and mitigation—is neither accurate, nor sufficient in helping mitigate the adverse impacts of floods.

This project examines the effectives of the 100-year floodplain in predicting property damages from floods along the Gulf of Mexico coast and offering improved criteria for assessing flood risk in low-lying coastal areas. The project will provide information to individuals and communities to help alleviate adverse impacts of floods.

TAMUG researchers will analyze data including insured property damage records, proximity to risk exposure, and built environment measures. They will also assess household surveys claiming losses in and out of the floodplain.

Through these approaches, TAMUG researchers will assist local governments and individual households in reducing negative impacts of coastal flooding in the U.S. Research findings will provide policy makers with new information about the effectiveness of the 100-year floodplain as a marker of risk. The project will also offer an educational, web-based GIS system; public education and outreach programs and graduate and undergraduate education materials.

Duration: 2011-2013
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Funding Amount: $312,801
PI: Sam Brody,  (TAMU, TAMUG)
Co-PIs: Wesley E. Highfield, (TAMUG); Michael Lindell, ( TAMU)
Research Assistants: Russell Blessing, Joshua Gunn, Tak Makino, Patrick Doty, Alexandra Stiles, (TAMU-TAMUG)

Transit Climate Change Adaptation Assessment Pilots for the Gulf Coast Region

Carrying people, goods and materials from one place to another is vital to the nation’s economy. Current climate change can slow down or even stop the flow of transport. Under current climate patterns, the Gulf Coast region experiences tropical storms, hurricanes and high winds, as well as heat waves and excessive downpours. All of these weather events can damage transit vehicles, and equipment. Ultimately, the impact of this damage can affect staff, budget and the economy. 

To find solutions to this problem, a consortium of researchers will conduct the first-of-its-kind study about the entire Gulf Coast to alleviate and adapt to three climate change impacts on transit: Extreme heat, flooding, and high winds. Researchers will also evaluate costs associated with service disruption, capital, and labor as well as transit equipment maintenance.

This study is a collaboration of the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), Texas A&M University’s Center for Texas Beaches and Shores (CTBS), and the following three transit agencies:  Hillsborough Area Region Transit (HART), Tampa, FL; the Island Transit, Galveston, TX and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), Houston, TX.

Duration: 2012-2013
Funding Agency: Federal Transportation Agency
Funding Amount:
Linda Cherrington, (TTI, TAMU)
Samuel Brody, (TAMU-TAMUG);Mathew Sandidge, (TAMU)
Students/staff employed:
Russell Blessing, Alexandra Stiles, (TAMU-TAMUG) 

Developing A "Living Laboratory" for Examining
Community Recovery and Resilience After Disaster

The Texas coast is quickly becoming the fastest growing area in the United States, exposing potentially millions of people to the adverse impacts of meteorologically-based disasters. Most recently, Hurricane Ike made landfall overnight on September 12, 2008 near Galveston, Texas.  The disaster research community has called for increasingly systematic and quantitative approaches to characterize the impact and recovery processes following a disaster. 

In response, Texas A&M researchers gathered baseline impact data from households, housing units, business owners, businesses, and business structures to measure recovery at multiple levels, and to better describe current community resilience. To measure how well communities adapt to change, researchers are systematically identifying key decisions made by public authorities regarding disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation planning as well as policy development.

The combined effect of examining historical records and conducting current research provides the ability to measure built, regulatory, and social environment from pre-hazard event to community response. It also provides a snapshot of how learning and recovery occur as important variables in a community that is or has overcome great adversity or misfortune.

Duration: September 2009 - August 2013
Funding Agency: NSF, Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)
Funding Amount: $374,036/4 years
PI: Shannon Van Zandt, (TAMU-TAMUG)
Co-PI: Walter Peacock, (TAMU) Samuel Brody, (TAMU-TAMUG); Wesley Highfield, (TAMUG); and Yu Xiao, (TAMU) 

Collaborative Research: Modeling, Display, and
Understanding Uncertainty in Simulations for Policy Decision Making

Numbers and pictures have influence in predicting conclusions of various events. This project tests and improves technology that simulates air quality, wildfire hazard and hurricane evacuation scenarios. Known as modeling, this predictive simulation can be a valuable tool for better understanding underlying mechanisms that control behavior of a system such as a fire. Research outcomes could provide valuable information for crisis management. 

Using simulations to make predictions of future behavior of systems can be difficult.

Simulating a system in the face of uncertainties and computing risks requires uncertainties calculations. This project establishes computational and cognitive foundations for capturing and conveying uncertainty associated with predictive simulations, so software tools for visualizing these forecasts of fire, wind and air quality behavior can be accurately presented in a visual model to a wide range of users.

The project is the first large-scale effort in the U.S.to consider the visualization (simulation) of uncertainty in a systematic, end-to-end manner to accurately and effectively convey appropriate level of uncertainties for a range of decision-making processes of national importance.

Those collaborating on the project include Ross T. Whitaker, University of Utah; Donald H. House, Clemson University; Mary Hegarty, University of California-Santa Barbara and Michael K. Lindell, Texas A&M University main campus.

Duration: October 2012 - September 2016
Funding Agency:
NSF, Division of Information & Intelligent Systems (IIS)
Funding Amount:
$319,125/4 years
Michael Lindell, (TAMU)
Carla Prater, (TAMU)

The Ike Dike: A Coastal Barrier Protecting the
Houston/Galveston Region from Hurricane Storm Surge

The Ike Dike is a coastal barrier that, when completed, would protect the Houston-Galveston region including Galveston Bay from hurricane storm surge.  The project was conceived by TAMUG Professor William “Bill” Merrell, who is holder of university’s George P. Mitchell ’40 chair in marine sciences. Merrell developed the Ike Dike coastal spine concept in response to the extensive surge damage caused by Hurricane Ike in September of 2008. The project is based on best practices and existing technologies successfully used in the Netherlands and New Orleans to protect communities from storm surge.

The Ike Dike would extend the protection afforded by the existing Galveston Seawall along the rest of Galveston Island and along the Bolivar Peninsula, with a 17ft high revetment near the beach or raising the coastal highways. The addition of flood gates at Bolivar Roads, the entrance to the Houston, Texas City, and Galveston ship channels, and at San Luis pass would complete a coastal spine that would provide a barrier against all Gulf surges into the Galveston Bay. Merrell asserts that the Ike Dike could be built using existing, proven technology such as gates and barriers currently used in the Delta Works project located in the Netherlands.

Duration: Ongoing
Agency: Various
Funding Amount:
$1.5 M
PI: William Merrell, TAMUG

Sargassum Early Advisory System

Sargassum, a brown or dark green seaweed species of algae  that originates in the Sargasso Sea Sargasssum has been a matter of concern as it collects in abundance on Gulf of Mexico beaches and shorelines affecting tourism and the economy of Texas and other Gulf coast areas.

The Sargassum Early Advisory System (SEAS) was designed to fill a need for advanced notification of sargassum landings on Galveston beaches. It has since been expanded to be applicable for the entire Gulf of Mexico and the islands in the Caribbean. 

The project incorporates NASA’s Landsat satellite imagery with sophisticated, high resolution systems for describing the effects of the tides, winds, earth's rotation, as well as simulation instruments that describe ocean currents and wind forecasts many other factors on the flow of water. These predictive models are being used to predict location, direction and speed prior to beach landings.

Duration: The SEAS Advisory System has been in operation for over a year providing South Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula with Sargassum landings forecast
Funding Agency: Galveston Park Board of Trustees
Funding Amount: Most recent funding source - $7,500.00, (12/10/2012)
Tom Linton, (TAMUG)