In the aftermath of a hurricane, how rebuilding occurs can have a major impact on how well communities recover and plan for future natural disasters. From the onset of the recovery mission, there is a need for persistent efforts to integrate resilience and sustainability measures into recovery efforts. Integrating smart growth approaches into recovery can change the overall effectiveness of communities to rebound from natural disasters.
At the request of the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, a Sustainability Adviser from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in Florida to advise local communities, and state and local agencies on opportunities to advance sustainable development, mitigation planning and resilience during the recovery from Hurricane Irma.
The Sustainability Adviser is part of the Interagency Recovery Coordination (IRC) team that includes the six Recovery Support Functions. Like the Mitigation, Philanthropic and Unified Federal Review Advisers, the Sustainability Adviser is an experienced disaster management professional who can draw upon lessons learned and best practices from other incidents to advance Florida’s recovery.
The Sustainability Adviser is helping the Community Place Based Recovery Support teams in Collier, Hendry, Lee and Monroe counties and the state of Florida explore several opportunities through a variety of programs. The Sustainability Adviser’s goals are to:
- Promote sustainable and resilient rebuilding by using EPA’s and their partners’ expertise to rebuild for the long term viability of regions’ people, economies and natural ecosystems.
- Help communities become more resilient to climate impacts and incorporate green infrastructure into their resiliency planning.
- Collaborate with other federal agencies to leverage all Federal resources in support of sustainable and resilient recovery.
- Provide EPA’s expertise to other federal agencies, states and communities in areas of EPA responsibility such as drinking and waste water infrastructure, brownfields, air quality, or oil and hazardous materials cleanups.
- Work with partner agencies to streamline federal oversight to efficiently fulfill statutory, permitting and/or enforcement requirements in a timely fashion, including enforcement if warranted.
- Actively engage vulnerable and overburdened communities so they can meaningfully participate and have their issues addressed during recovery operations and planning.
Sustainability is the best route for Florida to meet long term economic and environmental needs. Integrating sustainability into recovery projects now will greatly increase the ability of Florida’s communities to withstand and recover from hurricanes and other strong storms in the future.