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Kochnower, D, Reddy SMW, Flick RE.  2015.  Factors influencing local decisions to use habitats to protect coastal communities from hazards. Ocean & Coastal Management. 116:277-290.   10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2015.07.021   AbstractWebsite

Coastal hazard mitigation policy in the US has historically focused on construction of hardened, or gray, infrastructure. Recently, there is increased public interest and policy supporting the use of habitats, or natural infrastructure (NI), following decades of increasingly supportive ecological, engineering, and economic evidence. This trend suggests that behavioral and institutional factors may also be important for mainstreaming NI. To understand what factors affected decisions to use NI, we conducted semi-structured interviews with a total of 16 individuals associated with three NI cases: Ferry Point Park Living Shoreline, Maryland (MD); Surfer's Point Managed Retreat, California (CA); and Durant's Point Living Shoreline, North Carolina (NC). Our grounded theory analysis of the interview transcripts revealed four common themes across the decisions: 1) perception of benefits (N = 45) and costs (N = 31), 2) diffusion of innovation led by innovators (N = 34), 3) local champions (N = 46), and 4) social networks and norms (N = 30). This grounded theory suggests that the decisions to use NI were driven by innovators (citizens, local non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, and/or state government resource managers) who were influenced by seeing NI successes implemented by trusted experts and perceived NI benefits beyond protecting coastlines (e.g., maintaining coastal heritage and sense of place). Innovators also acted as local champions, getting others "comfortable" with NI and connecting to local interests. In addition, our analysis shows the role of regulatory permitting requirements in perpetuating or controlling biases against innovations like NI. In 2008, MD passed a policy that helped address biases against NI by changing NI from a preferred option to the required option except in places where scientific analysis suggested that gray infrastructure would be needed, while in CA and NC gray infrastructure remains only a preferred option. These results suggest an opportunity to harness heuristics, such as visual demonstrations and messaging from trusted persons, in addition to policy tools to mainstream NI in places where there is evidence that it would be effective. These results also suggest that heuristics could result in biases that not only lead to underuse but also to inappropriate use of NI; and, policies, similar to the policy in Maryland, are needed to control these biases. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).