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Addressing sea level rise with resilient design guidelines in New Bedford

The City of New Bedford

New Bedford, MA

The Port of New Bedford generates over $11B in economic activity per year, but is increasingly vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surge. To address these threats, The City of New Bedford created Resilient Design Guidelines to encourage sustainable future development and maximize the life of key assets

Topics Covered

Hurricanes & Severe Storms
Sea Level Rise
Stormwater Management


Initial: 208 Thousand USD


State and local grants

Project Status

Operational since 2020

Gov Champion

Director of Resilience and Environmental Stewardship

Problem Addressed

The City of New Bedford wanted to take steps to adapt to rising sea levels by enhancing the resilience of its infrastructure and businesses.

The Port of New Bedford has been the top-valued fishing port in America for 19 years straight.

More than 6,800 people are directly employed by the port, and it serves a vital role in the economy and culture of the area. With the sea-level rise and other climate-related changes becoming more apparent, the City of New Bedford found it essential to plan for these changes so that infrastructure and business operations would remain functioning at the same level in the future.

The city had a goal to become one of the most inclusive and resilient communities in America. Officials understood there was much to do to reach that goal, and that engaging all residents, businesses, and institutions in the process was key. To that end, the city needed resources to educate the community about major climate risks and how to adapt to them in both development and business.

Solutions Used

The city engaged with residents to develop Resilient Design Guidelines that will increase the resilience of the city's port.

The City of New Bedford hired KLA to build a coalition of resilience ambassadors and engage a diversity of stakeholders in discussions around current climate threats.

To do this, KLA created multiple resources to guide New Bedford's community development and businesses.

Before communicating to the community about what steps they can take to help mitigate climate threats, KLA initiated a boat tour of the Port of New Bedford for City staff to understand the impacts of current and future sea-level rise. With city staff now understanding the climate threats faced by their city, KLA facilitated a workshop for key stakeholders to further present sea-level rise modeling results and implications for the Port of New Bedford. To communicate this information to the broader community, the project team created an interactive coastal viewer tool for the Port of New Bedford that allows users to explore sea-level rise projections. The tool helped the community visually learn and understand the impacts of sea-level rise on their own lives as well as more broadly within the community.

With city staff and the community on board, KLA led the development of comprehensive and localized Resilient Design Guidelines for the Port’s infrastructure. These guidelines are intended for developers, businesses, residents, and City/Town staff members that are living or working in and around the Port of New Bedford. The guidelines are meant to enhance existing zoning codes and standards to proactively prepare for the changes brought on by sea-level rise. KLA developed the guidelines so that they can provide resources and strategies on how to increase the resilience of the Port and its many assets. Additionally, KLA developed a more specialized tool kit, a Maritime Business Resilient Toolkit, to help businesses further prepare for rising seas.

As part of this ongoing, multi-year Climate Action & Sustainability Planning Services process, KLA has delivered other resources and services such as: designing NB Resilient, an equity-driven climate action planning process; conducting a GPC compliant greenhouse gas emissions inventory; creating an NB Resilient video; developing an online community dashboard to track the progress of NB Resilient; generating business plans for two Resilience Hubs; and providing ongoing social media and communications support.



An interactive coastal viewer was created that allows users to see visual representations of how sea-level rise will impact the Port of New Bedford.


Delivered a workshop for key stakeholders to present sea level rise modeling and implications for the Port of New Bedford


Developed comprehensive and localized Resilient Design Guidelines that will inform changes to Port Infrastructure and other businesses.


Created a Maritime Business Resilient Toolkit to help businesses prepare for rising seas.


Designed an equity-driven climate action planning process; NB Resilient - including a corresponding video.

Who Should Consider

Cities and communities whose economic infrastructure and assets are threatened by sea level rise.

Last Updated

Mar 23rd, 2022

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