Using nature-based solutions to improve the City of Gastonia’s resilience

Protecting a North Carolina city from future heavy precipitation events while promoting equitable outcomes for underserved residents.
RESULTS AT A GLANCE
$5.98M
in Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) funding selected for award

Duharts Creek, located along the east side of the City of Gastonia, North Carolina, is vulnerable to flooding and severe erosion from frequent, more severe precipitation events. Storms have increased in severity in recent years, contributing to an increasing rate of bank erosion and larger flood volumes.

Of the 788 subapplications submitted to FEMA for Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) funding, the City of Gastonia was one of 53 projects selected. FEMA also highlighted ICF's work as a best practice for incorporating equity into the BRIC program under the Justice 40 Initiative. Federal officials used the project as an example of how BRIC funding could help communities across the country address future conditions associated with climate change.

The City of Gastonia will use its $5.98M award to stabilize Duharts Creek and realign critical sewer infrastructure that runs parallel to the streambed. This project will improve the city’s resilience to future disasters and improve outcomes for this North Carolina municipality, where one out of every five residents lives in poverty.

“This is how one project can protect thousands of residents.”

Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina

Challenge

Due to the impacts of climate change, the City of Gastonia is predicted to experience more frequent and severe precipitation events in the coming years. There is expected to be a 60% annual increase in the number of days with precipitation of three inches or greater, which will intensify the frequent flooding and erosion near Duharts Creek.

Erosion at the project site has exposed and threatened two sewer lines and power lines that supply electricity to surrounding homes, businesses, and critical government infrastructure. Consequence of loss would include disruption of wastewater service to 25,839 persons and loss of electrical service to 9,800 persons, as well as cascading impacts to additional critical infrastructure. With a poverty rate nearly 5.6 percentage points above the 2020 national average, the inland community suffers disproportionately from the effects of extreme weather events. Therefore, the City of Gastonia required a solution to mitigate the risk and vulnerability of its critical infrastructure.

Solution

In collaboration with our project partner, KCI Technologies, we provided the City of Gastonia with guidance to develop a strategy and comprehensive BRIC application. Together, we developed a preliminary design approach for a stream restoration and bank stabilization project that emphasizes nature-based solutions. This includes a combination of floodplain benching, bank regrading, bioengineered structural enhancements, natural fiber matting surface stabilization, removing and replanting high-risk trees, and intensive revegetation with the appropriate native riparian plant species.

The City of Gastonia held public meetings to assess project needs and directly partnered with civic groups and community organizations to form partnerships for the Duharts Creek project.

“My message to community leaders is this. Take advantage of this funding. Apply for a portion of the $3 billion and secure a stronger and more resilient future for your neighbors. Just like Gastonia did.”

Deanne Criswell, FEMA Administrator
City of Gastonia
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, NC Governor Roy Cooper, and White House officials visiting the project site

Where we are now

Work will soon begin to restore and stabilize Duharts Creek. The combined stream restoration and sewer realignment measures will provide increased resiliency to both sewer and energy infrastructure to mitigate the future loss of service to community lifelines and critical facilities.

Following the announcement of FY21 FEMA BRIC selections, federal officials joined City of Gastonia Mayor Walker E. Reid, III for a tour of the project site. They highlighted the work as a best practice for incorporating equity into the BRIC program.

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