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CoAD's Center for Resilient Design Receives Grant to Help Protect Coastal Communities and Ecosystems

Nearly four years ago, Hurricane Sandy barreled up the New Jersey coast, leaving communities both along the shore and inland decimated in her wake. In the Delaware Bayshore area in Cumberland County, many small towns were flooded by the storm surge. Among them was Greenwich Township, where dikes built in the 1600s to protect its village and farms and already breached were significantly worsened by the hurricane. Also greatly affected was the ecosystem just behind the dikes, which plays a vital role in both the local environment and economy.

With a two-year grant from the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, NJIT’s Center for Resilient Design, part of the College of Architecture and Design (CoAD), will develop ways to protect ecosystems and their surrounding communities from flooding. The grant project, “At Risk: Healthy Coastal Ecosystems and Resilient Communities & Economies in an Era of Climate Change: A Balanced Approach to Protecting People, Property and Nature in Historic Greenwich Township, NJ,” is spearheaded by Colette Santasieri, Ph.D., director of Policy and Planning Innovation for Civil Infrastructure and Environment at NJIT, and conducted in collaboration with Rutgers and Montclair State Universities.

Researchers are seeking to advance coastal resiliency planning while balancing human and ecosystem needs. Their study involves determining the likelihood and magnitude of environmental effects based on natural-resource vulnerabilities, identifying a range of protective flood-mitigation alternatives, and engaging Greenwich Township stakeholders to disseminate scientific information so the community can make the best decisions about its resilient and sustainable future. The project’s goals for the village include restoring and enhancing the natural environment with a focus on tidal wetlands, and protecting upland habitats, farmland and historic structures and sites.

“Primarily, this project serves to research and analyze potential solutions to Greenwich Township’s efforts toward resilience,” said Dr. Santasieri. “But it also will prove critical to the ecosystem health and economies of all coastal communities in New Jersey, especially with regard to the farming, fishing and recreation industries.” 

Toward this end, researchers will transform the results of their case study into a process-solution model and online education program for use by other coastal communities threatened by rising waters from storms. Deane Evans, executive director of NJIT’s Center for Building Knowledge, also part of CoAD, will lead this effort. 

“Our intent is to develop approaches that have the power to protect people, property and natural resources, strengthen the economy, and enhance the quality of life in coastal communities throughout the state,” Dr. Santasieri added.

The New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium is an affiliation of colleges, universities and other groups dedicated to advancing knowledge and stewardship of New Jersey’s marine and coastal environment and meets its mission through innovative research, education and extension programs. For more information, visit njseagrant.org.