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NC Sea Grant Assists Nags Head’s Future Planning


E-Ching Lee, 919-515-9098,

Posted Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015

Jess Whitehead talk to an audience
Jessica Whitehead (right) explains the Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Planning Scenarios process. Photo by Jane Harrison

Lisa Schiavinato and Jessica Whitehead are helping the Town of Nags Head determine how coastal hazards, including sea-level rise, might affect the town and its economy, quality of life and infrastructure 10 to 30 years into the future.

Schiavinato is the coastal law, policy and community development specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant. Whitehead is Sea Grant’s coastal communities hazards adaptation specialist.

In early December 2015, they conducted a two-day workshop with Nags Head residents, staff and elected officials. Attendees used the Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Planning Scenarios, or VCAPS, process to diagram the relationships between environmental stresses and management concerns.

“Using VCAPS gave the citizens and town staff a great structure for sharing their ideas about adaptations that increase resilience,” Whitehead explains. The workgroups focused on what needed to be done in the next three decades to maintain clean water, preserve their quality of life, and reduce marsh and oceanfront loss to erosion despite sea-level rise.

“The attendees gave the Town of Nags Head a great list of ideas for accomplishing those goals,” she adds.

Lisa Schiavinato leads a group through the VCAPS diagramming process. Photo by Amanda Brennan
Lisa Schiavinato (standing) leads a group through the VCAPS diagramming process. Photo by Amanda Brennan

“Working with the town has been tremendous. They are a proactive and thoughtful community, who are committed to making Nags Head more resilient for decades to come,” says Schiavinato, who also is co-director of the N.C. Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center.

Besides Schiavinato, Whitehead and Sea Grant coastal economist Jane Harrison, representatives from Binghamton University in New York, the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments team, the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill, and NC State University led the workshop and facilitated these groups.

The workshop followed up on feedback from key stakeholders in Nags Head gathered in summer 2015. Schiavinato and Whitehead led a team that interviewed specific people in Nags Head to identify what these individuals saw as the greatest environmental threats to their community, as well as how those threats might affect the town’s resources and its ability to provide services.

Their effort is proceeding parallel to FOCUS Nags Head, a new planning initiative that will lead to a comprehensive plan and a Unified Development Ordinance for the town.

Other news outlets also covered this December workshop:

  • Coastal Review Online through the Outer Banks Voice highlighted the workshop leading up to the event.
  • Weather Underground interviewed Schiavinato and Whitehead after the event.


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