Network Members of the Month: Michael McCormick and Nuin-Tara Key
Michael McCormick, Senior Planner, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR).
Nuin-Tara Key, Resilience Program Manager, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR).
“[We need to] recognize that there’s a level of urgency to the work while also balancing and keeping an eye on our long-term goals and targets. [We need to] make sure that the investments we are making today, to respond to direct community needs, really build local capacity and resiliency and help us bridge to where we want to go in the long term. So, I think that’s a balance that we need to keep in mind: to not always just be thinking off to 2050, but to also be thinking about direct community needs today.” – Nuin-Tara Key, member of the month
What is OPR’s role in relation to sea level rise adaptation?
McCormick: OPR is the Governor’s state planning entity, an arm of the governor’s office. We have a lot of statutory responsibilities related to land use planning in California, one of which overlaps with our coastal partners and agencies in the state system.
OPR serves a really important role within the state of California in that we coordinate between agencies. We work not only with our state agency folks, but also our local government and regional government partners, as well as people around the state, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and community groups to really accelerate and develop additional opportunities for doing adaptation work around the state.
Key: One aspect of the adaptation program is the formation of a Technical Advisory Council. The goal of that is to really support local implementation by better aligning our state processes, policies and programs with local policies and initiatives. We are really looking to how we support and facilitate implementation on the ground, and one of the main areas where we are focusing right now is around sea level rise.
We are looking at how we manage the evolving science and our understanding of sea level rise and what that means in a policy realm, given that the timelines for science and academic research don’t always align with policy and programmatic development. We are really looking to figure out how we as a state help support the integration and uptake of an evolving science and field within our state planning and programmatic areas while also recognizing local needs and contexts, as well.
McCormick: We are also the state agency lead in charge of the General Planning Guidelines in the California Environmental Quality Act. There are new mandates in California for adaptation, particularly for local governments to address adaptation. SB379 passed in 2015 and so we are working with our local partners and our costal agencies to help roll that legislation out and creating guidance for how that should be deployed at the local levels is part of our core responsibility.
What are your biggest challenges?
McCormick: We have some emerging challenges within the coastal areas around sea level rise: some of the governance structures for managing coastal resources don’t have the governance structures in place to respond to sea level rise. In inland areas now – where there may not be an issue around sea level rise – there may be [an issue] in the future, and those inland areas aren’t currently set up to address that issue.
Another example of an emerging challenge is around conservation easements. We have conservation easements that may be affected by shifts in habitat or issues with sea level rise that are displacing habitat. Some of the questions about what do we do with those conservation easements in the future are things we are talking about today – they may not affect us for a number of years, but we want to get ahead of that.
Do you see any changes that need to be made in order for us to adapt effectively?
Key: I think in adaptation generally there’s an importance to recognize that there are communities within the state right now who are dealing with the impacts of a changing climate. [We need to] recognize that there’s a level of urgency to the work while also balancing and keeping an eye on our long-term goals and targets. [We need to] make sure that the investments we are making today, to respond to direct community needs, really build local capacity and resiliency and help us bridge to where we want to go in the long term. So, I think that’s a balance that we need to keep in mind: to not always just be thinking off to 2050, but to also be thinking about direct community needs today.
McCormick: Planning for climate change is just good planning. It’s one of those things that we talk about here incorporating climate risk into everything we are thinking about, all of our policies, all of our infrastructure. The institutionalization of the consideration of climate is really the priority right now.
OPR has a new project underway, could you tell us about that?
Key: In the Office of Planning and Research, we recently launched the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program (ICARP). The goal of the program is to support local implementation of adaptation through better collaboration between state agencies and local partners and local jurisdictions.
There’s two key components to the program. One is an adaptation clearinghouse; the goal is to help support a community of practice on adaptation across the state. We’re looking to help pull together information and resources that local communities, as well as our state agency partners, can use as they work to institutionalize adaptation into their work portfolios and programs. The second component of the program is the creation of an advisory council. And, the council provides a unique opportunity to have an open public dialogue with state agencies and local jurisdictions, community based organizations, non-profits, and also private sector, as we think about local implementation. [The Council helps identify] where there are key opportunities that can help us really move our adaptation work forward here in the short term as well.