Open Space Overview
Enabling planners to prioritize nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk, lower insurance rates, and improve community resilience.
Coastal Resilience is a program led by The Nature Conservancy to examine nature’s role in reducing coastal flood risk. The program is designed around an online mapping tool that supports communities around the world who are conducting hazard mitigation and climate adaptation planning.
WHAT IS CRS?
The Community Rating System (CRS) promotes comprehensive floodplain management and encourages communities to go beyond the minimum standards of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). CRS is a voluntary program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that rewards communities by providing policyholders discounts on their flood insurance premiums for activities that reduce flood risk. Activities include, but are not limited to, outreach activities about flood risk, floodplain mapping, and conserving open space.
Planning for growth and adaptation in the face of rising seas and the likelihood of more intense storms is vital to the economic security and wellbeing of communities across the nation. Participation in CRS incentivizes communities to take action to reduce their flood risk and improve resilience while making flood insurance more affordable.
Identifying flood risk reduction opportunities and applying for CRS credits can be overwhelming for many communities who don’t have the capacity to take full advantage of the program. To empower communities to fully participate in CRS, The Nature Conservancy is building a strategy within the NOAA Digital Coast Partnership to coordinate efforts to meet the goals and objectives of coastal zone management in the U.S. and highlight those actions that also receive CRS credit.
Decision Support Tools
Digital Coast partner organizations including The Nature Conservancy (TNC), NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (OCM), Association of State of Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), and Coastal States Organization (CSO) are investing in the development of tools and guides to support communities in applying for CRS credits.
TNC: The Community Rating System Explorer app allows planners to identify areas that are currently eligible for Open Space Preservation (OSP) credits, and explore unprotected parcels that may be most beneficial to protect for the future. OSP is one of many activities within CRS, and aligns with TNC’s mission to illustrate the value of nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk while also providing the largest amount of CRS points to communities.
Across eight communities in North Carolina, this tool identified an average of 546 eligible OSP credits, enough to promote each community at least one CRS Class, which would result in a larger flood insurance discount. The app is replicable, updatable, and scalable to other communities.
Plans for the expansion of the CRS Explorer are already under way, beginning in the Gulf of Mexico. By overlaying watersheds with a high probability of future flood damages with unprotected, high conservation value watersheds, TNC scientists and partners at Texas A & M University were able to identify 412 high priority watersheds, out of more than 2,000 as potential CRS communities. A standardized model for the app facilitates the ability for communities across the U.S. to perform the analyses needed to submit a CRS application and maintain their own data.
NOAA: How-To Map Open Space Preservation for Community Rating System Credits: This guide describes a stepwise workflow to help planners and GIS specialists identify eligible OSP parcels and calculate potential CRS credits.
ASFPM and CSO: CRS Green Guide: features best practices and case studies derived from interviews with CRS communities earning top scores for CRS elements that preserve or enhance the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains.
Training and Outreach
TRAINING AND OUTREACH
- Collaborative workshops to provide step-by-step best practices to maximize community participation in the CRS program and training on decision support tools to help guide the CRS planning process.
- Success stories to engage local decision makers on the benefits of the CRS program and highlight lessons learned from top-scoring CRS communities.
- Online training resources for planners and GIS practitioners including decision support tool tutorials, E-Learning simulations, and comprehensive guidance documents.
- Instructor-led training curriculum for planners and GIS practitioners including live tool demonstrations, scenario based workflows, and implementation.