The monthly Audubon Eagle Eye Advocacy Updates will provide you with simple actions you can take to help foster a cleaner, healthier planet along with local and national environmental news. Advocacy to protect birds and wildlife is a top Audubon priority and this work goes beyond testifying on their behalf on Smith Hill. Year round, we are working with our community partners and Rhode Island leaders to ensure the environment is a priority. These updates will keep you informed and ready to take action when the legislative session is upon us. As the newsletter continues, we are very interested in your suggestions and questions. Please send them to Audubon Senior Director of Policy Meg Kerr at email@example.com.
With winter weather upon us, check to make sure that your car tires are at the correct pressure – it can affect your gas mileage. Tire pressure will decrease as the weather gets colder and you can expect to see a loss of 1 – 2 pounds of pressure lost for every 10 degrees of temperature drop. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires. You will save fuel and drive more safely when your tires are at the correct pressure.
Here is how to check your tire pressure:
- Tire Cool Down. Proper inflation should be checked when the tires have not been driven on for several hours and have had time to cool down.
- Vehicle Manufacturer’s Recommended Tire Pressure. Check the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure on the door placard.
- Check Tire Pressure. Check pressure with an accurate tire pressure gauge.
- Inflate to Recommended PSI. Fill each tire with air to the recommended PSI.
Ideas from our Readers
Send us your favorite strategies for protecting birds and wildlife by living more sustainably. We will include your suggestions in upcoming Eagle Eye editions. Email your ideas to Meg Kerr, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanine Silversmith shared the following with us:
"One of the most satisfying and easy strategies I use to live more sustainably is to compost my food scraps. It not only keeps food waste out of the landfill, but helps to create new, rich, wonderful soil. I started with a small compost bin in my backyard and only added fruits and vegetables along with leaves and grass clippings. I have since started composting all of my food scraps, including meats and other fats, and get everything picked up and carted away by Rhodeside Revival to an industrial composting facility in Charlestown called Earth Care Farm."
PFAS movie: Dark Waters
Last month’s Eagle Eye shared information on Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a new group of man-made toxic chemicals that are showing up everywhere in the environment. If you would like to learn more about these chemicals, catch the new movie, Dark Waters, which tells the story of the lawyer who worked for 16 years to hold DuPont accountable for their abuse of PFOA (a PFAS chemical). It is in Rhode Island theaters in December.
In late November, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) released their newly updated interactive story map, Unnatural Disasters. The map shows where climate fueled hurricanes, heat waves, algal outbreaks, wildfires, droughts, floods and extreme heat waves have hit in recent years in the United States.
According to NWF’s press release, the map demonstrates that no region of the country will escape the impacts of climate change. The map adds to the urgency for reducing greenhouse gas emissions raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The interactive map is well done and sobering. After you view it, share it with your state representative and state senator. Ask them what they will do this session to show leadership on climate change. If you are unsure who your representative is, find them here.
Given below is a letter that you can cut and paste into your email and send to your elected representatives:
A recent article in the New York Times entitled “As Climate Risks Grow, Cities Test a Tough Strategy, Saying ‘No’ to Developers,” described how officials in Virginia Beach, Virginia rejected a development proposal in a flood prone section of their city. These types of actions are politically very difficult, but increasingly necessary as tidal and inland flooding increasingly impact local communities.
In November, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a research report entitled "Mitigation Matters,” that highlights 13 states or cities that have adopted policies to reduce flood risk. The report describes policies that: 1) use existing funds for mitigating flood risk by redirecting revenue and spending, 2) create new revenue sources and 3) establish smarter regulations.
Pew summarizes the lessons learned from this research:
States and local jurisdictions plan for and mitigate future risks based on their unique needs and circumstances. Nevertheless, the actions featured in the policy briefs provide a variety of lessons for other jurisdictions to consider as they develop their own mitigation policies.
Invest in planning—and understand the risks
Some of the most effective mitigation policies first took shape following efforts to understand the root of a flooding problem. Officials in Washington state used an Environmental Protection Agency grant to study the state’s flooding problem before presenting a solution to the Legislature. Minnesota assessed flood impacts to transportation assets, such as roadways and bridges, and identified projects based on the costliest and most frequent closures of those assets due to flooding. In both cases, officials maximized the effectiveness of limited funding by being deliberate in examining vulnerability to floods and the greatest sources of possible disruption.
In South Holland, Illinois, a resident committee assessed options for combating flooding, leading to a proposal that eventually became the city’s rebate program—which has since led to more than 1,000 households strengthening their properties against flood risk. On a larger scale, Iowa dedicated an agency to studying flood models and related patterns.
Use regulations and cost-shares as cost-effective options
Several states and localities are driving down the cost of flood mitigation by using regulations to guide development away from high-risk areas as well as establishing policies that maximize the value of relatively small upfront government investments.
Fort Collins’ flood plain regulations, Norfolk’s zoning ordinance, and Brevard’s no-adverse-impact certifications are helping to ensure that housing, infrastructure, and other assets are located away from vulnerable areas, thus minimizing damage when floods occur. Indiana’s revolving loan fund maximizes the impact of a relatively small investment by making low-interest loans for mitigation projects to jurisdictions that then repay them so that others can take out similar loans.
Other policies leverage cost-sharing, in which jurisdictions combine their own resources with funding from individual homeowners and other levels of government to cover the expense of flood mitigation. Wisconsin’s buyout program, for instance, provides up to half the cost for local mitigation projects, and municipalities make up the remainder.
Tap into nature-based solutions
When designing policies to improve disaster resilience, some states are leveraging the benefits of nature-based solutions, such as creating open spaces and restoring wetlands, which serve as buffers between oncoming storms and otherwise vulnerable communities.
Maryland’s living-shorelines regulations prioritize the use of native plants and other natural elements that stabilize coastlines, reduce erosion, and mitigate flood damage, as opposed to structures like levees and seawalls. Buyout programs such as Wisconsin’s can replace hard surfaces such as concrete with green spaces such as parks and wetlands, which better absorb rainwater and bring additional benefits to communities, including providing places for recreation.
Officials in these states and others are nurturing more sustainable communities by weighing the impacts of development decisions on natural flood plains. And some places are moving to policies that reverse previous actions that manipulated bodies of water, such as Washington state’s history of straightening its rivers and Milwaukee’s lining of streams with concrete. Some communities have come to realize that these disruptions of natural waterway functions actually increased their flood risk and have since turned to nature-based solutions.
Communicate the benefits and engage stakeholders
Many programs’ effectiveness depends on whether communities understand how to take advantage of them, and how well municipalities collect feedback and improve the programs. Arkansas’s tax credit incentive has proved immensely popular in communities where awareness has spread through word-of-mouth, but other communities in the state have not seen the same level of interest. And while a significant portion of residents have used South Holland’s rebate incentive, program managers believe more would take advantage of it if they better understood the benefits.
In Iowa, officials have used the state’s network of Water Management Authorities to bring stakeholders into the conversation about curbing floods and to ensure that their concerns about the state’s mitigation program are addressed.
Make policy changes part of recovery efforts
As communities try to recover after flooding, some legislatures have responded by passing forward-thinking laws aimed at lessening the impacts of future floods. For example, after Tropical Storm Irene, lawmakers in Vermont created the ERAF program, which rewards localities that take measures to reduce their future risk.
Likewise, in Norfolk, the persistent problem of sea level rise motivated officials to improve the city’s zoning ordinance, buoyed by polls showing that 70 percent of city residents were concerned about flooding. As communities encounter more frequent and widespread damage from storms or rising seas, they can harness residents’ awareness and concern to initiate positive change.
Pew’s research highlights state and local policies and regulations that have been important catalysts for flood mitigation. As green spaces expand, wetlands recover, natural shorelines are created, infrastructure becomes more resilient, and homes are removed from or not built in vulnerable areas, communities are reducing the impact of future floods.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the threat posed by more frequent and severe flooding, the 13 policy briefs provide a variety of models for officials to consider when trying to make their own communities more resilient.
Audubon has a long-standing commitment to nature-based solutions for managing stormwater and flooding. This work received a big boost recently with a grant from the Restore America’s Estuaries Southeast New England Program (SNEP) to work with the City of Providence and the Green Infrastructure Coalition to create a stormwater innovation center at Roger Williams Park. Updates on this work will be featured in future editions of the Eagle Eye.