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Report: Priority for Flood Risks, Green Infrastructure Investments
Indiana Ag Connection - 03/05/2021

The most populous cities in the Great Lakes, and several former manufacturing hubs, face serious challenges from climate, unemployment, and lower quality of life ---- but can enhance their livability for people and nature if they route more funding and investment into green infrastructure, according to a new study. Led by San Francisco-based sustainable investing expert HIP Investor, Inc. (HIP) and supported by national consulting firm Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. (ECT), this report is one of the products of a coalition named the Resilient Infrastructure Sustainable Communities (RISC).

The newly released report, "Climate Risks and Opportunities in the Great Lakes Region," developed by leaders in sustainability, engineering, and climate action, focuses on the importance of intervention opportunities. These include the risk of flooding and other climate risks; workforce development opportunities such as the re-hiring of existing and skilled workers; closing the gaps in health and wealth, especially in communities of color; and innovative funding sources to pay for these improvements and projects.

The research was focused on the eight U.S. Great Lakes states, comprising 653 counties, and in particular the 216 counties within the Great Lakes Basin. The analyses integrated over 100,000 data points of 15 factors to create an innovative composite scoring system. This study evaluated items such as flood risk, impervious surfaces, unemployment rates, skilled worker density, health and well-being, vulnerability index, and financing capacity -- into one overall score of readiness for implementing green stormwater infrastructure. The final readiness score was found to have a strong correlation with diversity of the population, i.e., people of color.

"Communities across the Great Lakes basin are threatened by the changing climate, and threats are not affecting communities equally," says Steve Cole, vice president of programs at the Great Lakes Protection Fund, which supported this work. "This report illustrates where vulnerable populations are, and where conditions are favorable to increase community resilience by investing in green stormwater infrastructure. These investments could bring much-needed attention and new jobs to underserved communities while mitigating the environmental risks they face."

RISC is led by ECT, and includes collaborators from across the country, including HIP, New York based climate-action nonprofit CDP, Chicago-based community-expert Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and think/action-tank The Delta Institute, and Ann Arbor area based American Society of Adaptation Professionals.

"Accelerating talk and action on important investments will help strengthen our communities, people and nature," says Sanjiv Sinha, Ph.D., RISC's Project Leader and a senior vice president at ECT, "Members of the RISC team are currently engaged in the greater Milwaukee and Buffalo regions on large-scale investments in green stormwater infrastructure, and other priority regions can benefit from their models."

"Funding and financing climate action, especially in the Great Lakes, is lagging the visionary goals that many cities, counties, and states have set, such as 100% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030," says R. Paul Herman, CEO of sustainable-investing expert HIP Investor Inc. and a coauthor of the report. "Investing in green infrastructure today can create green jobs, stronger communities, and more resilience, which also fulfill the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals."

Leading candidates for critical green stormwater infrastructure investment include:

- Cleveland metro area and Cuyahoga County, Ohio;

- Milwaukee metro area and Milwaukee County, Wis.;

- Chicago metro area and Cook County, Ill.; and

- Detroit metro area and Wayne County, Mich.

Smaller cities and mid-sized counties are prime candidates as well:

- Lucas County, Ohio;

- Lake County, Ind.;

- Ingham County, Mich.;

- Erie County, Pa.;

- Isabella County, Mich.; and

- St. Joseph County, Ind.

"The focus on equity and equality in cities and communities is essential, as the analysis in the report shows," says Ron Harris, Chief Resilience Officer of the City of Minneapolis, and member of the leadership cluster for RISC. "Cities are increasingly tasked with solving major, competing issues. Cities that do not become fully equitable will always be in a recovery mode."

The full report provides lists, maps and graphics to tell the story of the communities most in need of action to survive the climate and engage their workforces.

Further details on RISC's work can be accessed at www.risc.solutions.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is a permanent, private, not-for-profit corporation that launches innovative solutions to improve the health of the Great Lakes. Since 1989, the Fund has awarded more than $90 million in support to catalyze the continuous development of new technologies and practical regional actions to improve the health of the Great Lakes. Learn more about the Fund: http://glpf.org/.


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