When the Port of Wilmington, Delaware, announced its intentions to open a new, multi-use containerized cargo facility, the residents of near-port, underserved communities were concerned. For generations, these communities have been neighbors to the port, which handles more than 400 vessels that carry over 6 million tons of cargo each year and is serviced by hundreds of heavy-duty diesel trucks each day that contribute to air, noise, and water pollution in the area. Concerned community leaders established the Delaware Community Benefits Agreement Coalition to engage stakeholders at the Port on how to best secure local environmental protections, deliver economic benefits, and ensure their neighborhoods’ concerns and voices would be taken into consideration during the expansion.
Following the process described in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Community Action Roadmap: Empowering Near-Port Communities, ERG helped facilitate six virtual sessions designed to help the Coalition organize its efforts, expand its network, and amplify community voices when speaking with the Port of Wilmington. Each session focused on a distinct step of building a roadmap and featured a variety of interactive, collaborative activities. These activities included developing lists of specific concerns; establishing an inventory of the group’s skills, knowledge, and resources; creating “elevator pitches” to succinctly share the Coalition’s message; prioritizing and assigning leaders key tasks; developing a legally binding community benefits agreement; and speaking with similar organizations across the country.
By the end of the process, ERG had helped the Coalition create a comprehensive set of action items and next steps, a digital toolkit of all resources and materials from the sessions, and positive momentum to develop a planning document and implement its recommendations. ERG also wrote a case study detailing the experience.