Funding & Assistance for Coastal Resilience

Adaptation and resilience building efforts for North Carolina's coastal communities can come in many forms (e.g., structural or non-structural), occur at different times (e.g., pre- or post-disaster), and build off existing efforts or be part of a new endeavor. Thinking in terms of adaptation and resilience can help communities connect the dots to achieve multiple goals simultaneously by leveraging multiple funding sources and types of assistance.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Tab/Accordion Items

Diversify Your Sources

Because adaptation and resilience strategies are wide-ranging and diverse, the options for funding their planning and implementation can and should come from a variety of sources (e.g. local, state, federal, non-profit and private). While involving more stakeholders or partners in a process may present challenges in terms of coordination, there is also a greater chance of realizing unique financing combinations that pull resources from multiple areas and can sustain progress should one or more funding source dry up. Many grants and other funding opportunities require making the best case for your community's need and ability to utilize the funds. NOAA has provided a series of quick tips and grant writing guides to enhance proposals and applications.

Generally, adaptation and resilience projects and initiatives often get done in multiple phases for which different funding sources may apply. Some projects could involve one phase or all of them depending on the level of complexity and the number of partners involved. 

Typical Phases of a Project:

  1. Planning, research or feasibility studies: taking action usually requires having a plan, framework, scope of work or a study that helps determine feasible options informed by benefit-cost analyses (BCA). Topic ideas can stem from seasoned local staff as well as from concerned groups of residents.
    • Many state and federal grants can kickstart resilience work to enhance or supplement existing efforts (comprehensive, stormwater, hazard mitigation) in the form of pilot projects or research topics.
    • Non-profits and universities often conduct applied specialized research that could fill knowledge gaps for certain issue areas. 
  2. Design: for any engineering or non-policy action, detailed and accurate design plans from private engineering firm are necessary to obtain relevant permits and approvals. This step is often included or overlapping with planning activities.
    • DCM Planning & Management Grants may be able to fund small-scale studies
    • Some state, federal and non-profit organizations can fund or assist in designing actions or policy changes 
    • Regional Councils of Government (COGs) can facilitate and support work to revise local plans or ordinances
  3. Approval: adoption of new or updated plans, ordinances, projects or initiatives are required and often proposed in the prior phases. Identifying a local champion that possesses a high level of knowledge on the issue, community influence and trust, and enthusiasm makes for a greater likelihood of approval and sustained implementation.
  4. Implementation: measurable progress in adaptation and resilience building means using creative financing mixtures combining grants, local funds, and other forms of assistance to begin construction, retrofit, or program launch.
    • Numerous state and federal grants and loan programs are designed to help repair, replace, and enhance physical infrastructure through higher design standards both before and after major disasters
    • Multi-jurisdictional agreements, collaborations, or funds can be beneficial in fostering a greater financial capacity to deal with collective issues such as water quality, beach management, or affordable housing. 
    • Public-private partnerships are an effective way to support entrepreneurship, increase public acceptance, and reduce the burden on local governments.
  5. Monitoring and Evaluation: time and money can feel wasted if progress and actions aren't adequately tracked and reported on. Think creatively about how to positively frame this step to maximize stakeholder engagement. Establish realistic performance measures or metrics to increase your ability to revise actions based on results.
    • Depending on the action and metric established for measuring success, universities and non-profits may have the capacity (e.g., students, interns, etc.) to organize monitoring efforts.
    • Some state and federal programs create incentives for accurately tracked actions (FEMA Community Rating System)
    • Consider how existing monitoring and evaluation activities can be enhanced or integrated by including additional performances measures for a particular action.

Finally, there are a few things to remember when seeking financial resources: take baby steps, take the long view, think outside the grant funding box, don't go it alone, and don't put all your eggs in one basket (NOAA).

Potential Activities

Activities that support coastal adaptation and resilience include, but are not limited to: 

  • stormwater management; 
  • wetland and coastal habitat restoration; 
  • beach nourishment; 
  • education and outreach campaign;
  • water and transportation infrastructure upgrades; 
  • hazard mitigation measures for residents, businesses, and public facilities; 
  • flood and sea level rise vulnerability assessments; and 
  • planning and stakeholder engagement for adaptation and resilience.

For specific opportunities and ideas to fund nature-based solutions, visit the Naturally Resilient Communities Funding page.

Planning and Management Grants

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management typically awards Planning and Management Grants every year to support local governments in addressing a specific topic that can change with each year. Grants may apply to a variety of activities focusing on issues such as natural hazards and storm recovery, wetlands, marine debris and public access programs.

Application deadlines are typically in September.

Public Beach and Waterfront Access Project Grants

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management uses a three-step grant application package process to help fund local governments projects such as land acquisition as well as construction or reconstruction (not general repair or maintenance) of boardwalks, dune crosses, parking structures, boat ramps, docks, public bathrooms, and other infrastructure that supports increased public access to the beach or waterfront.

Pre-applications are typically due in April.


For questions about either grant program's timelines or eligible activities, contact your area's district planner.

Local government budgets are often tight and prioritizing one issue over another is by no means a simple task. However, many local governments have been able to use a combination of the following financial instruments to invest in hazard mitigation and resilience activities such as beach management and capital improvements.


Bonds are a form of long-term borrowing that often finance public infrastructure improvements and are more politically feasible when compared to raising taxes. General obligation or revenue bonds can be used to retrofit existing infrastructure (e.g. stormwater ponds, levees, culverts, etc.) and fund new projects (e.g., floodplain or wetland restoration, beach nourishment, dune building, etc.). More recently, specialized bonds, known as environmental impact bonds tie investment to specific metrics or outcomes that demonstrate success (e.g., reduced nutrient loads in waterways) through performance payments. In September 2016, DC Water financed the construction of green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff by issuing a $25 million EIB.

Low-interest Loans or Loan Revolving Program

A revolving loan fund is often defined as a replenishing source of capital or funding from which loans are made. Many communities use local or state revolving loan programs to fund the development of affordable housing or restoration of drinking water or wastewater infrastructure which do contribute to increased resilience. Revolving loan funds can and have also been set up to fund hazard mitigation projects (e.g., Shore Up CT) such as structure elevation or flood retrofitting. These low-interest loans can help those who may not be eligible or who don't receive adequate funding from other federal grant programs. Once set up, the fund requires an initial influx of money to begin revolving.

Special District Property Assessments

Both municipalities and counties have the authority to make special property tax assessments on the benefiting properties in order to construct, reconstruct, extend or otherwise install improvements for several types of public infrastructure projects. These may include drinking water, stormwater, and sewage systems and for counties, beach erosion control or flood and hurricane protection works. 

Another program, though underutilized in North Carolina, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) can help property owners install fixed energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements without paying any upfront cash. Additional activities may include disaster recovery and prevention measures. 

Levies and Taxes

County governments in North Carolina are granted authority to adopt Local Options Sales Taxes (LOSTs), subject to public referendum, in addition to normal state sales taxes to generate revenue, a fraction of which may go to a county's general fund and also be distributed to the municipalities within them, as required. View Frequently Asked Questions on LOSTs from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. Local governments may also propose raising occupancy or sales tax which can generate revenue to go toward establishing funds for shoreline management, beach nourishment or other activity.  

Fees or Surcharges

Adding fees in addition to normal drinking water and sewer bills can fund improvements to water infrastructure. If feasible, the establishment of a local stormwater utility and collection of stormwater permit fees during new development can be used to upgrade stormwater infrastructure and even fund hazard mitigation projects for structure (e.g., acquisition). These measures can help address water quality concerns and community flooding issues. Learn how the Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Storm Water Services utilizes stormwater fees to partly fund a floodplain buyout or acquisition program.

Other/Public-Private Partnerships

Effectively demonstrating the benefit that major capital investments can provide to the community can also prompt the development of public-private partnerships that bring private capital to the table. These partnerships are formal collaborations between governments and the private sector in which small amounts of public funding are used to attract private capital. The EPA provides more information on community-based public-private partnerships

Funding for these activities can come from a variety of state agencies and contain varying requirements for eligibility, type of work, cost-share balance, and timeline. Find below a general description for some of the most common sources of funding for adaptation and coastal resilience work. Always check the relevant organization’s website and/or contact the organization's program manager for details about each funding source listed as they can change from year to year. Below are links to general pages of various financial assistance avenues within divisions along with a table listing some of the more popular programs.



Typical Activities Eligible Recipients Amount Timing
The Kendeda Fund and Southeast Sustainability Directors Network (SSDN) Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund Examples of eligible water projects include, but are not limited to those that address stormwater, sea level rise, and/or drought adaptation strategies. Examples of eligible energy projects include, but are not limited to, demand-side management, energy efficiency and/or renewable energy solutions. See the website for past projects funded.

Municipalities and Counties in the Southeast U.S.

(non-profits may receive funds and perform fiscal management)

Two disbursements of $75-$150K per year with a maximum of $300K over  the 2-year time period

Open Mid-April

Closes End of June

All Water Infrastructure Financing EPA Water Finance Clearing House Select NC on the map or search and then filter both resources and funding by sector, funding source, financing approaches, special topic, scope, author, type, and date. Depends on the program Depends on the program Depends on the program
Division of Water Infrastructure State Reserve Programs (Grants & Loans) Provides grants for technical assistance and for construction of critical needs for wastewater collection systems, wastewater treatment works and public drinking water system projects  Local government units (counties, cities, towns, sanitary districts, etc.)

The amount of grants money or targeted interest loans for each system awarded for three consecutive fiscal years may not exceed $3 million.

Applications due in September
Division of Water Infrastructure Clean Water State Revolving Fund Wastewater treatment & collection, reclaimed water, stormwater best management practices, stream restoration, & energy efficiency at major facilities Local government units (counties, cities, towns, sanitary districts, etc.) Loan maximum is one half the amount available per funding cycle Applications due in March & September
Division of Water Infrastructure Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Drinking water source, treatment, storage, or transmission  & distribution systems Local government units (counties, cities, towns, sanitary districts, etc.) Loan maximum is one half the amount available per funding cycle Applications due in September
Division of Land and Water Stewardship Clean Water Management Trust Fund Primary activities include: land acquisition, restoration, innovative stormwater, and planning to improve water quality, sustains ecological diversity and protects historic sites and military installations. Landowners and conservation groups can use the Tool for Environmental, Agricultural, and Military Reporting (TEAM) mapping tool to identify opportunities and match them with funding sources. Local government, state agencies, and non-profit corporation with a conservation purpose

No stated min/max

2018 range: $21K - $1.2M

Annual - Applications due in February
Division of Water Resources Water Resources  Development Grant Program General navigation, recreational navigation, water management, stream restoration, water-based recreation, NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) stream restoration projects, and feasibility/engineering studies Local governments and others (varies by program) Encourages a $200K max request, though higher is allowed Bi-annual -  (deadlines vary)
Division of Soil and Water Conservation Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality including: abandoned well closure, backyard rain gardens and wetlands, bioretention area, rainwater cisterns, critical area planting, diversion, grassed swale, impervious surface conversion, marsh sills, permeable pavement, pet waste receptacle, riparian buffers, stormwater wetland, stream restoration, streambank and shoreline protection, and structural stormwater conveyance Landowners including homeowners, businesses, schools, parks and publicly owned lands Administered by local soil and water conservation district (up to $20,000 per district) funding 75% of the pre-established average cost of the BMP  Annual (regional application deadline typically in early October)


Funding for these activities can come from a variety of federal agencies and contain varying requirements for eligibility, type of work, cost-share balance, and timeline. Find below a general description for some of the most common sources of funding for adaptation and coastal resilience work. Always check the relevant organization’s website and/or contact the organization's program manager for details about each funding source listed as they can change from year to year.

All available federal grants can be searched and accessed at NOAA has also developed tips for first-time users of the portal.




Typical Activities Eligible Recipients Amount Timing
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), NOAA, Shell Oil Company and TransRe

National Coastal Resilience Fund and Grants

Projects that protect infrastructure while enhancing or expanding natural habitat. Potential projects fall into one of three categories: 

  • Project Site(s) Assessment and Preliminary Design: 12 months
  • Final Project Design and Permitting: 18 months
  • Project Restoration and Monitoring: up to 3 years
Local, state and territorial governments, Native American tribal governments, non-profit and commercial (for-profit ) organizations, and educational institutions

$125k to $3 million

Minimum 1:1 non-federal match (cash or in-kind services)

Pre-proposal due May 20, 2019
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program Hazard mitigation projects, planning, and public awareness and education activities. Cost share is typically 75% federal, 25% local. Local governments, states, U.S. territories, and federally-recognized tribes Congressional Approval Open October-January
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (Post-disaster) Hazard mitigation planning, training, evaluation of ordinances or codes, retrofitting structures and facilities, elevation of flood-prone structures, vegetative management programs, property acquisition, and minor or local flood control projects. Cost share is typically 75% federal and 25% state. Local governments, states, U.S. territories, and federally-recognized tribes who have received presidential disaster declarations Congressional Approval Following a presidentially declared disaster
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Mitigation Assistance Program

Projects and planning that reduces or eliminates the long-term risk of flood damage ONLY to structures insured under the NFIP as well as management costs. Cost-share depends on the NFIP-insured property: severe repetitive loss properties (100% federal); repetitive loss property (90% federal/10% local); others (75% federal/25% local).

Local governments, states, U.S. territories, and federally-recognized tribes Congressional Approval Open October-January
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery These congressionally appropriated funds go to the most impacted and distressed communities for disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure, housing and economic revitalization. Examples include new construction or repair of single family or multifamily housing, water facility repair, and loans and grants to businesses as well as flood buyout or elevation of residential or commercial properties. States which distribute funds to local governments () Congressional Approval Following presidentially declared disasters
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant  Activities include, but are not limited to: acquisition of real property; relocation and demolition; rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures; construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings; public services, within certain limits; activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources; assistance to nonprofit and profit-motivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities. Local Governments (no less than 70% of the funds must go to benefitting low- and moderate-income populations over three year period) Maximum of $3 million over three years per community Distributed annually
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Justice Grants, Funding, and Technical Assistance

Provides funding directly to community-based organizations for projects that help residents of underserved communities understand and address local environmental and public health issues. For purposes of this announcement, the term "underserved community" refers to a community with environmental justice concerns and/or vulnerable populations, including minority, low income, rural, tribal, indigenous, and homeless populations that may be disproportionately impacted by environmental harms and risks.

Incorporated non-profit organizations—including, but not limited to, environmental justice networks, faith-based organizations and those affiliated with religious institutions; federally recognized tribal governments; or Native American organizations (includes Indian groups, cooperatives, partnerships, associations)

One cooperative agreement per EPA region up to $120K for a two-year period


Technical Assistance:

Small Grants: Open period November-February

U.S. Department of Agriculture - Rural Development (USDA)

Programs and Services

Explore various options for loans, grants, and technical assistance applicable to rural areas for the following categories: communities and nonprofits, businesses, utilities, lenders, tribes, developers and individuals.

Local governments and nonprofits; utilities Varies Varies
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Floodplain Management Services Most flood modeling or management activities including studies and analysis (e.g., site-specific data on obstructions to flows, flood formation and timing, flood depths, stages or velocities, flood loss potentials before and after use of measure, etc.) State, local government agency, and eligible Native American Indian tribes Depends on funds available Open
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Sections Under the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP)

The CAP allows the USACE Wilmington District to plan, study and in some cases, design and implement projects that can help build coastal resilience. Projects need specific congressional authorization. View the fact sheets for appropriate contact information and description of each type of activity: Section 14 - Emergency Streambank and Shoreline Protection; Section 22 - Planning Assistance to States; Section 103 - Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction; Section 205 - Flood Risk Management

Any non-Federal government entity Varies Open
Economic Development Administration (EDA)

Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA)


Program & Disaster Supplemental

Public Works & EAA Program includes construction, non-construction, a revolving loan fund investments that leverage regional assets to support the implementation of regional economic development strategies designed to create jobs, leverage private capital, and encourage economic development.

Disaster Supplemental (2018): sometimes made available after major disasters, these funds must address one or more of EDA's investment priorities, including: recovery and resilience, critical infrastructure, workforce development and manufacturing, and exports and foreign direct investment.

Local, state, and tribal governments (both federally recognized & non-federally recognized), private and public higher education institutions, non-profits, and special district governments.


Public works general range: $600K - $3M

EAA general range: $150K - $1M


Disaster Supplemental: varies

Annual basis; often opens in July


Following a presidentially declared disaster

Various Water Infrastructure Financing EPA Water Finance Clearing House Select NC on the map or search and then filter both resources and funding by sector, funding source, financing approaches, special topic, scope, author, type, and date. Depends on the program Depends on the program Depends on the program

Additional information can also be found on U.S. EPA's Climate Adaptation Funding web page.

Connect to a Network for Funding, Assistance, and Partnership

Whenever possible, local governments should try to leverage the resources of local, regional, state and national institutions and organizations who can serve as project partners or in an advisory role and potentially provide low-cost or even no-cost technical assistance as well as grants. These groups include regional groups, higher-education institutions (including N.C.'s Land and Sea Grant programs), professional organizations, non-profit organizations and private foundations.

Additionally, many of the following organizations operate email listservs or produce newsletters creating a peer-to-peer network for sharing of training and funding opportunities, innovative approaches and program updates.

Regional Organizations:

  • NC Councils of Government: These multi-county organizations can provide technical assistance to local governments on a variety of topics including, but not limited to: economic development, community planning and ordinance revision, geographic information systems, grant writing, and coordination during long-term disaster recovery.
  • Other Regional Recovery Organizations in North Carolina's Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) network. Working with and supporting these local groups is crucial to building community resilience because they, along with residents themselves, are the most in-tune with the range and extent of pre- and post-disaster unmet needs that government programs aren't able or designed to address.

Higher Education, Land Grant, and Sea Grant Programs

  • Colleges and Universities: Teachers and professors of planning, architecture, design, engineering, environmental and marine science and other fields often want to engage their undergraduate and graduate students in applied research projects. This presents an opportunity for young, talented students and subject matter experts in North Carolina to work with a community to develop real-life solutions to meet resilience and adaptation goals with the cost primarily including staff time and project coordination.
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension: with centers in every county of the state, extension services and agents are there to assist especially on topics of agriculture, food, health, and forestry
  • North Carolina Sea Grant: various fellowships, grants and extension staff with expertise in coastal hazards, fisheries, and other coastal issues can support your community's goals towards building resilience through a combination of education, research, and outreach.

Professional Associations

Quasi-Governmental Groups

  • Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (NOAA): this team conducts applied research in North Carolina and South Carolina that incorporates climate information into water, health and coastal management and decision making. The group hosts the Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference every other year with the next one being in 2020.
  • Southeast & Caribbean Climate Community of Practice: learn lessons and best practices for climate adaptation planning and outreach occurring throughout the region.
  • Education Disaster Education Network: this group of extension educators that come from various disciplines aims to help communities explore disaster risk reduction strategies through education and engagement.

Non-Profit and Private Organizations:

Local, State, and Regional

National and International

North Carolina Programs
Federal Programs
  • Digital Coast Training - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: explore and filter training by type, skill desired or focus area and learn about a range of subjects important for building coastal resilience.
  • FEMA Training Portal - Federal Emergency Management Agency: view available online and in-person training and workshops covering all phases of emergency management from preparedness to recovery.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction Ambassador Curriculum - Natural Hazard Mitigation Association: go through a set of 24 modules that includes self-study and training media (e.g., powerpoints, videos, etc.) and use them to host and lead webinars or short training.
  • Living Shorelines Academy - N.C. Coastal Federation, Restore America's Estuaries: learn about living shorelines – what they are, how they are designed and built and how 
    they serve our coastal habitats and communities.