Start-up Mitigates Risks from Sea-level Rise, Flooding

Coastal Risk Consulting, a new start-up company formed by an FAU professor, has developed technology to evaluate and mitigate risks from encroaching seas along Florida’s southeast coast and other regions.

By gisele galoustian | 7/28/2016

Spring and autumn king tides and storm surges are putting coastal highways under salt water in Florida and it’s impossible to ignore this trend and the resulting devastation to properties and homes. Regional planners are increasingly scrambling for coping strategies. Coastal Risk Consulting (CRC), a new start-up company formed by a professor at Florida Atlantic University, has developed novel technology to assist coastal homeowners, businesses, and government to evaluate and mitigate risks from encroaching seas along Florida’s southeast coast as well as other vulnerable areas in the United States and overseas. 

Using a proprietary scientific and technological methodology that can be performed online, the CRC team provides advice on issues such as planning and design, sustainable design and construction, transportation, water management, flood risk and coastal management, emergency preparedness, health impact assessment, and biodiversity issues. 

“Improvements in resilience in built and natural systems can promote and enhance successful, continuous adaptive management to evolving climate-related conditions,” said Leonard Berry, Ph.D., vice president of government consulting for CRC, emeritus professor of geosciences at FAU, former director and founder of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at FAU, and one of the foremost experts on sea-level rise and climate change. “Buying a home or developing land is perhaps one of the biggest investments an individual will ever make and they need to be certain that they build properties that are climate ready. They need to know that their biggest investment won’t literally end up ‘underwater’.”

Berry formed the company two years ago together with Mitch Chester and Albert Slap, president of CRC, and this year the company received the “Best Startup” and “Best Tech Startup” Stevie American Business Awards.

“Coastal Risk Consulting provides a series of novel sea-level rise screening tools for property owners in Florida and beyond, who can use them to gauge their relative risk,” said Keren Bolter, Ph.D., research coordinator at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at FAU and science director at CRC. “The company’s reports, which are very affordable, offer a color-coded, FICO-like flood risk score at the individual property level ranging from green to red according to the property's risk.”

CRC has revolutionized flood prediction modeling by automating high-resolution elevation data (LIDAR) with storm and tidal flood projections (including sea-level rise) and heavy rainfall. The company’s flood prediction models integrate scientific data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as other sources to create a comprehensive assessment of current and future flood risk at the property level.

In partnership with local governments, CRC applies its Coastal Community Risk Assessment protocol as a starting point for the client to identify actions to implement adaptation measures in an identified project area, generating a set of state-of-the-art, flood risk maps, a vulnerability assessment, a preliminary outline of potential adaptation strategies, and site-specific recommendations for future adaptation planning.

Berry has been a consultant to numerous national and international agencies including USAID, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In Florida his work includes statewide analyses of sea-level rise impacts, studies of ground water pollution, the impacts of changing climate on Everglades Restoration, and most importantly, the strategy and mechanics of adaptation for urban and rural communities in the face of a changing environment and new levels of extreme events. He is a member of the Four County Compact working group on current and future impacts of sea-level rise, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Community Resilience Group and other state and national networks. Berry is the author of 20 books and more than 300 papers and reports, and is an author of the southeastern section of the current National Climate Assessment. In 2012, he testified before the United States Senate full committee on natural resources and energy on the current and future impacts of sea-level rise in Florida.

Bolter also is a policy analyst for the Southeast Florida Regional Planning Council. She uses LIDAR digital elevation, storm surge, and water table models in GIS to assess sea-level rise risk. Methods include mapping and analysis of the impacts of sea-level rise, addressing both physical, socioeconomic, and health implications. For the Southeast Florida Regional Planning Council, she helped create a “Guide for Adaptation Action Areas” to identify areas that experience coastal flooding due to extreme high tides and storm surges. She also helped organize a data common to help the public better understand the challenges and opportunities of using data to drive change in southeast Florida. A concurrent project, the “Citi-Community Development Equity Indicators Project,” uses social equity indicators to better understand communities, improve public policy and promote informed decision-making. She has created data visualization interfaces through a web-based analysis and visualization environment to illustrate the usefulness of inquiry-based data exploration.