Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2017

Abstract

Like many coastal ports around the world, Rhode Island’s Port of Providence in USA is at risk for climate-related natural hazards, such as catastrophic storm surges and significant sea level rise (0.5–2.0 m), over the next century. To combat such events, communities may eventually adopt so-called “transformational adaptation” strategies, like the construction of major new infrastructure, the reorganization of vulnerable systems, or changes in their locations. Such strategies can take decades or more to plan, design, find consensus around, fund, and ultimately implement. Before any meaningful decisions can be made, however, a shared understanding of risks, consequences, and options must be generated and allowed to percolate through the decision-making systems. This paper presents results from a pre-planning exercise that utilized “boundary objects” to engage the Port of Providence's stakeholders in an early dialogue about the transformational approaches to hazard–risk mitigation. The research team piloted the following three boundary objects as a means to initiate meaningful dialogue about long-term storm resilience challenges amongst key stakeholders of this exposed seaport system: (1) a storm scenario with local-scale visualizations, (2) three long-term transformational resilience concepts, and (3) a decision support tool called Wecision. The team tested these boundary objects in a workshop setting with 30 port business owners and policy makers, and found them to be an effective catalyst to generate a robust dialogue around a very challenging topic.

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