Earlier this month, the City of Jacksonville released Resilient Jacksonville, the city’s 50-year strategy for mitigating and adapting to climate change and enhancing the city’s overall resilience. Joining fellow Florida cities like Tampa, Pensacola, Cape Canaveral, and Miami, Jacksonville is actively planning to protect the city from long-term impacts of climate change. Coming in at just under 300 pages, the Resilient Jacksonville strategy embraces a comprehensive approach which factors in both acute shocks, like power outages and extreme weather, and chronic stressors, like saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion. It also outlines priorities and adaptation approaches to guide implementation and is ripe with details not seen in many of its contemporaries.
Jacksonville, located in northeastern Florida, is the largest city in Florida by population, and the largest city by land area in the continental U.S. As such, the city’s size and complexity are befitting such a robust strategy. Nicknamed the “River City,” it has been shaped by both the Intracoastal Waterway and the St. John’s River, as well as over 1,000 miles of shoreline. It faces a number of climate risks and hazards, like increased flooding, sea-level rise, and hurricanes, but also faces increasing instances of deadly extreme heat. Average temperatures have been rising steadily over the past few decades, and by 2050, Jacksonville is projected to see as many as 80 days a year where the heat index exceeds 100 degrees.
Resilient Jacksonville, then, comes at a critical time for the city’s civilian and military communities. The strategy is guided by four themes: 1) proactively adapting; 2) fostering healthy communities and environments; 3) expanding opportunities and; 4) building for the future, with two chapters that outline 45 actions and 90 sub-actions. Given the size of Jacksonville, planning for city-wide resilience promises to be incredibly challenging, but the strategy also establishes eight types of development conditions and a framework for targeted and scalable resilience actions which are tailored to the specific characteristics of different communities. The improvements to existing infrastructure and policy to “build smarter for the future” outlined in the strategy stand to benefit the roughly 50,000 active duty personnel in the area, as well as their families. The military is listed repeatedly as a key coordinating partner, which makes sense given that there are already many climate resilience efforts underway, including a recent Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program (DCIP) grant to the Jacksonville Port Authority. The strategy also has a specific sub-action (45.2) which calls for “build[ing] relationships with military and other federal partners to maximize resilience investments,” potentially foreshadowing increased cooperation yet to come.
Jacksonville’s mitigation and adaptation efforts will have profound efforts at the local and state level, but also will play an important role in facilitating military readiness and U.S. national security. As ASP has written about before, Florida plays a critical role in our national security and military readiness, with more than 20 military bases and installations across the state. It ranks fifth among states with the most military personnel, and the defense industry has significant economic benefits for Florida’s economy. The greater Jacksonville area is home to several critical military installations, including U.S. Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island (MCSF-BI), Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, and Naval Station Mayport. The importance of these facilities is hard to overstate. MCSF-BI is responsible for the planning, coordination, and logistics for Maritime Prepositioning Forces (MPF), forces that are required to maintain readiness for rapid deployment around the globe. NAS Jacksonville, meanwhile, is the largest installation and home to Navy Region Southeast, and includes three bombing ranges, including the only Navy live-fire range on the East Coast. It is also home to seven active-duty patrol (VP) squadrons, three Reserve squadrons, five helicopter squadrons, and a UAS Triton squadron. And Naval Station Mayport is home to the third largest naval fleet concentration in the U.S. and a unique capability of being able to handle any aircraft in the Department of Defense’s inventory.
And, while technically located about 40 minutes away in neighboring Georgia, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay (home of the Navy Atlantic Fleet’s ballistic missile nuclear submarine fleet), its proximity to Jacksonville means that the adaptation and mitigation developments in Jacksonville can have significant impacts King’s Bay’s operational capabilities, personnel, and overall readiness.
Like the city of Jacksonville itself, each of these bases are facing similar, yet distinct climate change risks. NS Mayport in particular is at an acute climate risk, as it sits at the mouth of the St. John’s River. Sea-level rise projections range from 3.7 to 6.1 feet by the end of the century, and in worst case the base could lose just over half of its land to the tide.
Although there are many important elements in the strategy, the actions on infrastructure will play a key role in fostering resilience at military installations. The strategy prioritizes utility expansion in “high, dry, and connected areas” and embeds resilience in improvement planning. Subsequently, where and how roads are built for the city’s rapidly expanding population will play a factor in movements to/from military installations. And given that most military facilities leverage commercial electric power on base, the goals for reliable electricity and water will also impact mission essential functions and continuity of operations.
It will likely take many years to see the fruits of this ambitious strategy, but there is no doubt that there is a robust and fully fleshed out plan in place that will maintain and enhance military readiness in Jacksonville.
Climate Security in Focus is a blog series dedicated to exploring key elements of climate security that impact American interests both at home and abroad. The series aims to examine specific aspects of climate security issues in order to better understand climate policy challenges, facilitate conversation, and generate ideas.