OneWater Reflections Oct 3, 2023

An Integrated, OneWater Approach to Coastal Resilience

By Luce Bassetti

OneWater Reflections

As my Jacobs colleagues have recently noted in a summary of the IPCC’s 2023 Synthesis Report, climate change is causing substantial and in some cases irreversible damage to ecosystems, human health, livelihoods and critical infrastructure – with sea level rise in particular posing a distinct and severe adaptation challenge.

While responding to hazards such as storms, flooding and sea-level rise is a global challenge, coastal areas are at particular risk and coastal communities, installations and businesses need to develop resilience to a broader, emerging range of interconnected threats and hazards. We’ve seen how extreme weather events such as hurricanes and shoreline erosion can destroy wetlands and coastal habitats, while also causing significant damage to homes, commercial property and critical infrastructure.

The interconnected nature of these challenges is why our approach to coastal resilience at Jacobs incorporates our broader OneWater mindset. We recognize that effective coastal resilience requires a holistic, integrated approach that looks beyond sectors and boundaries and that no one-size-fits-all solution exists. From major regional storm surge barrier solutions to local nature-based and property-level interventions, all solutions have their place.

For example, as part of our work supporting the Tyndall Air Force Base “Installation of the Future” in Florida, we developed a coastal resiliency implementation plan that took a hybrid approach, including nature-based coastal solutions as part of multiple lines of defense to protect the base against future natural disasters.

OneWater thinking also recognizes the opportunity to develop resilience solutions that address coastal risks and seek to support broader social and environmental outcomes for coastal areas. Clients don't just want to deliver a project on time and budget. They want their projects to enhance sustainability, social equity and inclusion, and interconnectedness. For example, the East Side Coastal Resiliency project in New York City includes a comprehensive flood protection system that will protect the city's critical infrastructure and vulnerable communities from future flooding and make communities more vibrant by improving waterfront open spaces and access. We’re also working through Simetrica-Jacobs to integrate social justice and equity into resilience decision-making.

Achieving this integrated, multi-functional approach requires extensive collaboration – and that’s why we’re proud to be sponsoring and participating in the ASBPA 2023 National Coastal Conference this month. Taking place in Providence, Rhode Island, the event brings together coastal stakeholders to discuss the latest science, engineering and policy needed to maintain and improve the health of our coastal ecosystems. Our Jacobs team is involved in several sessions, including one we’re leading on engineering with nature. I’ll be presenting our work at Tyndall Air Force Base and joining a Women in Science panel discussion during the awards luncheon. Check out our agenda here.

With coastal threats increasing pace, we need innovative solutions to build resilience. It’s also essential that we are proportionate in resilience responses, avoid over-engineering solutions, and recognize that we often have the capacity to incrementally enhance resilience over time, as sea levels rise. With the right approach, we can mitigate climate change impacts and provide wider benefits for coastal communities and ecosystems.

About the author

Luce Bassetti

Luce Bassetti is a coastal and port specialist with more than 19 years of experience managing regional and international coastal projects. She started her career with Jacobs as a coastal modeler, working on projects in North and South America and across Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. She later led Jacobs’ U.S. Coastal Resiliency Program before being appointed Americas Coastal Resilience Director, responsible for developing and driving the growth strategy for Jacobs’ coastal resilience market in the Americas. Luce specializes in analytical and numerical coastal modelling, met-ocean characterization, coastal design and coastal hazard assessments to enhance the resilience of coastal communities.