Fain, Planning Director for the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) since October, was part of a three-person office in the Waterfront and Open Space Division of New York’s Department of City Planning. “We were doing a small study on adaptation options,” she recalls. “In the middle of that, Sandy hit. Suddenly all eyes were on us.” Fain brings that background to a setting unlike New York in many ways. Instead of five boroughs, for example, she’s dealing with a multiplicity of counties, cities, and special districts. But the Bay Area presents new opportunities: “There’s more space for green infrastructure, wetlands, adaptive solutions at a large scale. New York is so constrained; it’s built out to the edge.” She’s involved with pending Bay Plan amendments addressing environmental justice, social equity and fill for habitat, coming later this year. The idea of placing sediment in wetlands to allow tidal marsh vegetation to keep up with rising sea levels is a paradigm shift for BCDC, whose original mission was to stop the filling of the Bay; Fain believes the restoration community and environmental groups are on board with the new direction. She’s also working on the regional Adapting to Rising Tides Program. Regional coordination is a challenge, but Fain is optimistic: “The will is there. It’s a question of how to get all the actors in line to figure out the best way to work though it.”

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Jessica Fain got a crash course in resilience planning when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.

Fain, Planning Director for the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) since October, was part of a three-person office in the Waterfront and Open Space Division of New York’s Department of City Planning. “We were doing a small study on adaptation options,” she recalls. “In the middle of that, Sandy hit. Suddenly all eyes were on us.” Fain brings that background to a setting unlike New York in many ways. Instead of five boroughs, for example, she’s dealing with a multiplicity of counties, cities, and special districts. But the Bay Area presents new opportunities: “There’s more space for green infrastructure, wetlands, adaptive solutions at a large scale. New York is so constrained; it’s built out to the edge.” She’s involved with pending Bay Plan amendments addressing environmental justice, social equity and fill for habitat, coming later this year. The idea of placing sediment in wetlands to allow tidal marsh vegetation to keep up with rising sea levels is a paradigm shift for BCDC, whose original mission was to stop the filling of the Bay; Fain believes the restoration community and environmental groups are on board with the new direction. She’s also working on the regional Adapting to Rising Tides Program. Regional coordination is a challenge, but Fain is optimistic: “The will is there. It’s a question of how to get all the actors in line to figure out the best way to work though it.”

About the author

Joe Eaton writes about endangered and invasive species, climate and ecosystem science, environmental history, and water issues for ESTUARY. He is also "a semi-obsessive birder" whose pursuit of rarities has taken him to many of California's shores, wetlands, and sewage plants.