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Partner Developed Guidance Connects the Use of Nature-Based Solutions with FEMA’s Mitigation Programs

Challenge

Many potential applicants do not understand how to develop competitive nature-based hazard mitigation project proposals for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) programs, including Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Without clear understanding a community may miss out on the opportunity to help reduce its potential for flood disasters.

Solution

The California chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) became a Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) in 2019. Both FEMA and TNC share an interest in utilizing high value flood hazard information and promoting awareness of mitigation opportunities such as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program and other mitigation programs and the nature-based mitigation solutions that these could help fund. The program supports states, local communities, tribes, and territories as they undertake hazard mitigation projects, reducing the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards.

The Risk MAP program has a key focus on identifying flood hazards and working with communities to assess and plan for those risks.  The BRIC program aligns with these goals with its focus on supporting communities through capability- and capacity-building; encouraging and enabling innovation; promoting partnerships; enabling large projects; maintaining flexibility; and providing consistency.

Natural infrastructure utilizes nature, open space and ecosystems that can provide multiple benefits to communities, including protection from natural hazards. Wetlands, sand dunes, reefs, and marshes lessen the impacts of waves and help absorb floodwaters along coasts Projects like rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales can help urban areas absorb excessive rain and slow and filter waters that flow over the ground.

TNC facilitated the creation of a guidebook to help support potential applicants as they developed nature-based solutions projects. Promoting Nature-Based Hazard Mitigation Through FEMA Mitigation Grants is a resource for people pursuing FEMA HMA grants for nature-based solutions to mitigate risks associated with flooding (riverine and coastal) and wildfire.

Outcome

The California chapter of TNC received FEMA funding. One activity under their CTP partnership included funding to supplement previously secured private funding and contract support to create the guidance booklet.

The 57-page resource is housed on the TNC website at www.nature.org/FEMAguide. It includes six sections: an introduction; insights into FEMA’s hazard mitigation assistance grants; mitigation techniques; benefits of nature-based solutions; approach and strategy; and case studies.

The next phase of this effort will include promotion of this product to potential subapplicants. TNC is working with partners across California and FEMA Region 9 to assist local communities and provide technical support on mitigation opportunities as needed.

Benefit

This resource provides guidance and potential funding sources for those considering using nature-based solutions to mitigate flood or wildfire risk in their community, including in-depth explanations on navigating the benefit-cost assessment for nature-based projects.

Lessons Learned

Individual hazards are unique and distinct from each other. Providing general information that applies to most of them is challenging.

Identifying case studies and examples that showed how FEMA programs were used to fund nature-based solutions required thorough research and would benefit from future investment.

Resources

Using nature to address flooding: Naturally Resilient Communities website: www.nrcsolutions.org

The Guidebook for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants: www.nature.org/FEMAguide

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Last updated October 14, 2021