Organizations & Networks in Coastal Resilience

Learning, sharing, and collaborating to build resilience together

Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coastal communities face erosion and flooding hazards due to lake level fluctuations, coastal storms, waves, storm surges and extreme precipitation. Resilient communities plan, prepare for and adapt to these conditions so they can “bounce back” when hazardous events occur.

Many organizations, agencies, and networks in Wisconsin support coastal communities as they build resilience. These networks bring together local governments with scientists, outreach specialists, state agencies and federal partners to discuss coastal hazards, share ideas and experiences, demonstrate decision-support tools, and develop approaches to address coastal hazard issues.

This page features profiles of the various organizations and agencies that support coastal resilience in Wisconsin. Additionally, this page features a table that compares the different regional networks and projects in Wisconsin.

State Government

Wisconsin Coastal Management Program

The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP) is preserves and improves access to the natural and historic resources of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes coasts. They orchestrate the management of ecological, economic, and aesthetic assets of the Great Lakes coastal areas. Their main program objectives include improving the implementation and coordination of regulations and policies affecting the coast, planning initiatives, assistance in coastal management, increasing public awareness, and involvement. Their grant program provides grant funding to local governments, nonprofit organizations, schools and universities, and state agencies for coastal resiliency projects. Projects that can be funded through this grant include categories such as wetland protection, pollution control, resource and community planning, education, and preservation projects.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is a state agency in charge of managing and conserving the State’s natural resources. They oversee development and administration of regulations related to wildlife, fish, forests, endangered resources, air, water, waste, and more. Within this large profile of responsibilities, the DNR has several programs that address Great Lakes coastal hazard issues like erosion and flooding for Wisconsin’s communities and residents including the Office of Great Waters, Great Lakes erosion control and permitting, coastal funding, floodplain management, and state wetland mapping programs.

Wisconsin Emergency Management

Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) is a division of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs. WEM builds capabilities and coordinates resources to support a safe and resilient Wisconsin. The bulk of WEM is organized into two Bureaus: 1) Response and Recovery; 2) Planning and Preparedness. These two sectors are responsible for carrying out the process of emergency management as well as the support for it. WEM helps communities become more resilient and able to bounce back from all manner of adverse events, including coastal hazards. They also have opportunities for communities to bounce back from hazards by offering funding for hazard mitigation assistance programs and recovery programs.

University Programs

Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

The future Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve will be a part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System of 30 sites across the coastal US designed to protect and study estuaries and their coastal wetlands through the integration of research, education, outreach, and stewardship. Freshwater estuaries occur in the Great Lakes where rivers meet the lake.  Upon designation, the Green Bay NERR would be the third NERR within the Great Lakes and the first NERR representing the Lake Michigan-Huron biogeographic region. It will offer a coordinating force to manage, restore, and protect the Green Bay Ecosystem.

Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve works to improve the understanding of Lake Superior’s coast and estuaries by addressing issues through the integration of research, education, outreach, and stewardship. The Reserve is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension’s Natural Resource Institute with leadership from NOAA and membership in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. It is based on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus in the City of Superiors and encompasses over 16,000 acres along the St. Louis River freshwater estuary in Wisconsin.

University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute

Sea Grant is a federal-university partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and university-based programs in each U.S. coastal state as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. The Sea Grant network is highly interdisciplinary, consisting of 3,000 scientists, engineers, public outreach experts, educators, and students to help citizens better understand, conserve, and protect coastal resources. Sea Grant is specifically interested in promoting healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient coastal economies, and environmental literacy and workforce management.

Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office

The State Cartographer’s Office is a part of the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It provides maps, cartography, geographic information systems, land information system, land information systems, geospatial technology, and educational workshops to geospatial data producers and consumers in Wisconsin. SCO also serves as a liaison between government, education, non-profit and private sectors to help with projects and expand the use of geospatial technology.

Regional Planning Commissions

Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission

The Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission provides planning and technical services through various federal, state, and local programs to their member local governments in northeast Wisconsin. They partner with state and federal governments to help these local governments create and execute successful community projects. The Commission works with Brown, Door, Florence, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Oconto, and Sheboygan County. The region has over 400 miles of coastal shoreline along Lake Michigan and Green Bay and contains 12 major watershed areas that drain into Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission provides essential information and planning services to help solve technical problems and focus regional attention on key issues of regional consequences. Their regional approach is necessary for properly planning and designing public work systems and addressing environmental issues, such as coastal resilience. SEWRPC serves seven counties in southeastern Wisconsin: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha.

Non-Profit Organizations

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence is a binational coalition of over 200 municipal and regional U.S. and Canadian mayors and local officials working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Member cities work together with other orders of government and stakeholders to improve infrastructures, programs, and services and increase investments in protection and restoration work. Overall, the hope is to get mayors engaged and inform the public, collaborate with all orders of government, and work with other sectors to advocate for stewardship of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership

The Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership fosters partnerships, cultivates projects, promotes discussions, and advocates for the conservation and protection of the Great Lakes basin. They help develop new programs and supports existing community-based efforts by providing program and project funding, administrative services, and bridge-building between partners. Their focus area is the communities of northeast and east central Wisconsin within Lake Michigan’s watershed from Green Bay to Washington Island and down to Sheboygan.

The Nature Conservancy

TNC in Wisconsin supports the development of more resilient coastal communities by protecting and restoring coastal habitat and providing science based solutions as a collaborative partner on coastal projects. A strategic priority in Wisconsin is working to incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion and environmental justice to preserve outdoor spaces for all. 

Wisconsin Wetlands Association

The Wisconsin Wetlands Association is a non-partisan, science-based professional organization that is a leader in Wisconsin wetlands work. WWA is dedicated to the protection, restoration, and enjoyment of wetlands and associated ecosystems through programming, education, and advocacy. In addition, the organization prioritizes providing tools and expertise to help others protect, manage, and restore wetlands.

Federal Government

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a federal agency with a guiding mission to “deliver enduring engineering and water resource solutions to the nation, in collaboration with partners, to protect the environment, energize the economy, and strengthen our national security”. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is made up of biologists, architects, project managers, and many types of engineers to support  engineering solutions to reduce disaster risk and support economic development.

Other Organizations & Agencies