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Coharie Tribe signs agreement for local resilience plan

Indigenous land management project is a first for state partnership

This article is resposted from NC Department of Public Safety. For questions, please contact Janet Kelly-Scholle.

The Coharie Tribe recently signed an agreement to participate in a community floodprint project, which is being funded by the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) and led by the N.C. State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab (CDDL). The tribe is the third community selected for the Eastern North Carolina Community Floodprints initiative. A total of five communities will collaborate with the CDDL for the development of a floodprint, which can then be used to bolster future community resilience.

Floodprinting is a CDDL-developed method of resilience planning which focuses on the land and water relationship and emphasizes equity and recovery. The Coharie Tribal Administrator authorized the agreement with CDDL on June 13, 2022, and work on the Coharie Tribe Community Floodprint began Jan. 1, 2023. Throughout the 16-month floodprint project, CDDL staff will provide technical assistance to tribal staff to accelerate ongoing community recovery from hurricanes Matthew and Florence.  

“This project is truly community driven and is our first watershed-level project in our partnership with CDDL and North Carolina communities,” said Maggie Battaglin, director of mitigation at NCORR. “The floodprint will provide flood resilience recommendations for the local community and help identify opportunities for additional grant work. These recommendations will be developed in close collaboration with tribal members who love and protect the Great Coharie River as a part of their cultural heritage,” she added.

The project is the first of its kind for NCORR’s partnership with the CDDL, as they work with tribal leaders to focus on changes that have impacted the river and the agricultural lands that surround it. The project will focus on indigenous land management strategies that prioritize the Coharie’s connection to the river while reducing flood vulnerability. Previous projects took place with local governments and within city boundaries.

“Coharie tribal partners and landowners tell us that the river has shifted and looks different from the way it used to,” said Andy Fox, director of the CDDL. “The community priority is to protect the river and the land surrounding it, so we will tailor the floodprint strategies to their tribal goals.”

Greg Jacobs, Coharie Tribe tribal administrator, emphasized the importance of the river to the Coharie Tribe, stating, “The Great Coharie River is a treasured cultural and natural resource that shares a strong spiritual connection between the river and community, in addition to environmental significance to the county and region.”

First steps for the project were to begin researching the physical history of the river and landscape and how it’s changed. Once completed, a community-level plan and mitigation proposals for specific areas contained in the final project report can be used to fulfill grant funding requirements that might otherwise be lacking. The use of data and planning details from the CDDL’s past floodprint projects have led to millions of dollars of grant-funded investment in North Carolina communities.

The new floodprint information will also help guide NCORR program planning in the most storm-impacted areas of eastern North Carolina. Floodprints are particularly useful for the office’s Strategic Buyout Program, which purchases eligible properties located in high-risk flood areas. The voluntarily buyout option allows owners of flood-damaged property to relocate to a safer location.

In January 2022, NCORR launched the three-year, five floodprint collaboration with CDDL using North Carolina’s HUD Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation funds. Potential candidate communities for the floodprint process must be within the areas most impacted and distressed by hurricanes Matthew and Florence, as identified by HUD or the state. Other considerations include community interest and flood-vulnerable properties. The first of the five new CDDL/NCORR community floodprints for the City of Whiteville in Columbus County will be completed in April. Work is also underway in Goldsboro, the second community to benefit from a CDDL/NCORR floodprint.

More information about the floodprint initiative is available at the CDDL website. Learn more about NCORR and the Strategic Buyout Program at ReBuild.NC.Gov.