State of the Beach/State Reports/MI/Erosion Response
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Erosion response is a measure of how well a state's policies and procedures limit the extent of shoreline armoring, unsafe coastal development, and costly beach nourishment projects, and conduct preemptive planning for sea level rise. Evaluation of this indicator brings attention to the states that are taking proactive roles in natural beach preservation and hazard avoidance. Through the formulation (if not already in place), implementation, and strict adherence of the specific criteria within the indicator, states can overcome two fundamental obstacles to alternative erosion response practices outlined by the Oceans Studies Board (2007):
- A lack of knowledge and experience among decision-makers regarding alternative options for shoreline erosion response, the relative level of erosion mitigation afforded by the alternative approaches and their expected life time, and the nature of the associated impacts and benefits.
- The current legal and regulatory framework itself, which discriminates against innovative solutions because of the complex and lengthy permitting process that almost always considers these options on a case-by-case basis.
For example, are statewide oceanfront construction setbacks used to site new development, and are these based on the latest erosion rates? When existing development is damaged during a storm, does a state prohibit reconstruction or provide incentives for relocation? Before permitting shoreline stabilization does a state require: that there is demonstrated need via geo-technical reports with content standards; that alternatives to armoring including managed retreat/relocation are fully explored; and that potential adverse impacts and cumulative effects are taken into account? Does the state conduct sea level rise vulnerability assessments and develop adaptation plans to mitigate impacts? If a state can answer 'yes' to most of these questions, then its rank is high. If the answers are mostly 'no' then its rank is low.
Also see the "Policies" discussion of the Shoreline Structures section of this report for more information on Michigan's erosion response.
Possible quantitative measures for this indicator include the number of new structures located within setback areas, number of damaged structures reconstructed in identified erosion zones, number of instances where alternatives to 'hard' shore protection were employed, the number of shoreline structures permitted under 'emergency' provisions, and the number of permits for shoreline structures reviewed, approved or denied. We have found that such information is rarely available.
Policies and Guidance
The MLWMD Shorelands Management Program (MSMP) Website provides a useful summary on hazard avoidance policies in Michigan.
Part 323, Shorelands Protection and Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Public Act 451 (formerly known as 1970 PA 245) is the key state statute pertaining to coastal erosion and flooding, as well as environmental protection of Michigan's fragile coastal areas. Part 323 is closely integrated with Part 325, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands program, Part 353, Sand Dunes Protection and Management, as well as the state’s Coastal Mangagement Program, which includes administration of pass-through grants to state and local units of government.
The high-risk erosion area regulations establish a required setback distance to protect new structures from erosion for a period of 30 to 60 years, depending on the size, number of living units, and type of construction. Other setback requirements apply to additions to existing structures. Structures threatened by erosion must be moved landward (where possible), protected by costly shore protection, or lost. Local units of government may adopt a zoning ordinance for high risk erosion areas which, if approved by the department, replaces the need for a state high risk erosion area permit. (Other state permits such as for critical dune areas, wetlands or shore protection may still be necessary from the department.) The department then monitors the performance of the community and provides technical assistance.
High Risk Erosion Area Maps have 30-year and 60-year setback distances calculated from local long-term average erosion rates. Approximately 7500 individual property owners are affected by setback requirements.
The shorelands of the Great Lakes, connecting waterways, and river mouth areas are regulated to protect sensitive habitat. Michigan's Shorelands Protection and Management Act provides for the designation of environmental areas up to 1,000 feet landward of the ordinary high-water mark of a Great Lake, or 1,000 feet landward of the ordinary high-water mark of lands adjacent to waters affected by levels of the Great Lakes. If the environmental area boundary encompasses an entire parcel, a 12,000 square foot structure zone is identified where construction can be permitted. Approximately 275 linear miles of essential habitat exists along Michigan's Great Lakes shorelands, representing about 8.5% of the Great Lakes shoreline. About 607 parcels of land were designated as environmental areas from 1976 to 1985. Of the approximately 118 environmental areas, each containing as many as several parcels of land, less than 6% utilize the full 1,000-foot setback. Most of the parcels containing environmental areas extending inland 1,000 feet are state and/or federally owned. Designation of these sensitive coastal shorelands assures an increased level of protection over these valuable resources.
Environmental area designation sets up a review program under which the affected property owner must make application to the department for any dredging, filling, grading or other alteration of the soil, natural drainage or vegetation, or placement of permanent structures. The statute identifies uses which require the Department's review. These include dredging, filling, grading, other alterations of the soil, alterations of the natural drainage, alteration of vegetation utilized by fish and/or wildlife, including harvesting timber in identified colonial bird nesting areas and the placement of permanent structures. Activities which do not require a permit include maintenance of existing dikes, farming if specific provisions are complied with, and harvesting timber if outside a colonial bird nesting area.
Private owners of designated environmental area lands are eligible to apply for enrollment in Part 361, Farmland and Open Space Preservation, 1994 PA 451 (formerly know as PA 116 of 1974). This statute provides for property tax reduction and exemption from some types of assessments if the property owner enrolls under an open space easement. Under the easement, these habitat-rich lands may still be utilized by the property owner for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, and other non-developmental activities.
The full set of Michigan's Shorelands Management Rules are available via the MLWMD website.
Living on the Coast, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, provides guidance about living and working on the edges of the dynamic Great Lakes. The principal message of this document is to "do everything possible to avoid placing buildings and other structures where flooding, storm waves and erosion are likely to damage them or shorten their useful lives. If it is not possible to avoid these hazards, use shore protection methods that work with nature or have minimal negative effects on the nearshore environment and on neighboring properties."
Coastal Barrier Resources Act
The federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), passed in 1982, was designed to "minimize the loss of human life, wasteful expenditure of federal revenues, and the damage to fish, wildlife and other natural resources" by denying federal support for everything from sewer construction to flood insurance in undeveloped or little-developed coastal areas such as barrier islands. CBRA does not restrict development in these areas, but it indirectly discourages development by denying the use of federal funds for development projects or redevelopment after storm or flood damage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers this program, which identified 1.3 million acres of coastal land to be covered by the act. Unfortunately, pressure by property owners and developers in these areas has lead Congress to pass dozens of exemption bills which exclude certain areas from CBRA, thus thwarting the intent of the Act.
The Coastal Barrier Improvement Act (CBIA) was enacted on November 16, 1990. The CBIA resulted in reauthorization of the CBRA of 1982. The CBRA establishes the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) to protect areas such as undeveloped coastal barrier islands. There is a discussion of CBRA on NOAA's web site that concludes:
"Although the removal of federal funding assistance has discouraged development in some coastal barrier islands, development has continued in other areas despite designation as a unit of the CBRS. CBIA is not intended to prevent or regulate development in high-risk areas; rather the intent is to direct that federal dollars not be spent for development in these areas. Activities conducted in areas adjacent to CBRS units may adversely impact these sensitive areas; these activities are not regulated under CBIA. In addition, CBIA does not restrict the use of private, local, or state funding within CBRS units. Some coastal states have initiated legislation that limits state funding of certain projects."
A report released in March 2007 reviews the extent to which (1) development has occurred in CBRS units since their inclusion in the system and (2) federal financial assistance and permits have been provided to entities in CBRS units. GAO electronically mapped address data for structures within 91 randomly selected CBRS units and collected information on federal financial assistance and permits for eight federal agencies. GAO found multiple federal agencies have provided some financial assistance to property owners in CBRS units that is expressly prohibited by CBRA; some assistance allowed under CBRA; and hundreds of permits for federally regulated development activities within the unit. GAO recommended, among other things, the four agencies that provided prohibited loan guarantees or insurance policies to CBRS units first verify and then cancel those that are in violation of CBRA.
On April 7, 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released to the public its Report to Congress: John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project. The report, which was directed by the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-514), highlights the benefits of updating Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) maps with more accurate and precise digital maps to better protect people, coastal areas and natural resources. A 2016 report is now available.
FEMA has now developed a fact sheet on CBRA. The fact sheet outlines the responsibilities and restrictions that various programs within FEMA have under CBRA.
Climate Change Adaptation
Bordering four Great Lakes, Michigan is distinguished as having the world's largest freshwater coastline. Like most coastal states, areas along Michigan’s Great Lakes shorelines experience severe, chronic erosion. Yet in contrast to the open ocean, Great Lake levels are actually projected to decrease due to climate change. Coastal erosion will nevertheless remain an issue, as an increase in the severity and frequency of coastal storms will continue to wear away bluffs and shorelines, and additionally contribute to extensive flooding.
In recent years Michigan has increased its commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation, adopting the Michigan Climate Plan in March 2009. Although the state does not currently benefit from a State Adaptation Plan, numerous initiatives and discussions relating to adaptation are being pursued throughout the coastal region. And while the state has not necessarily embraced the managed retreat strategy along the shoreline, Michigan’s regulates coastal development using 30-year and 60-year setback distances calculated from local long-term average erosion rates. Still, it will be necessary for the state to soon implement concrete adaptation measures.
Michigan would also benefit from increased coastal mapping efforts, in addition to undertaking coastal community adaptation pilot studies. Furthermore, while erosion data is continuously updated, as stipulated by statute, consolidation of erosion data, mapping projects, and climate change impact studies will help streamline the adaptation process. Increased educational outreach is also recommended, as well as development of a centralized climate change portal. In the near future it will be important for Michigan to not only increase, but also consolidate, its erosion studies, hazard mitigation plans, adaptation strategies and decision making tools into one comprehensive and easily implementable guidance document, such as a State Adaptation Plan.
Established on November 14, 2007 with the issuance of Executive Order No. 2007-42, the Michigan Climate Action Council (MCAC) was created to identify opportunities for Michigan to respond to the challenge of global climate change while becoming more energy efficient, more energy independent, and spurring economic growth. The Council was charged with the following:
- Produce an inventory and forecast of greenhouse gas sources and emissions from 1990-2020;
- Consider potential state and multi-state actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in various sectors including energy supply, energy efficiency and conservation, industrial process and waste management, transportation and land use, and agriculture and forestry.
- Develop a comprehensive climate action plan with specific recommendations for reducing greenhouse gases in Michigan by business, government and the general public.
- Advise state and local government on measures to address climate change In addition to the Council, six technical work groups provided further input into the process by reviewing technical documents, developing and reviewing proposed policy actions and recommendations and providing feedback on priorities
In March 2009, the Michigan Climate Action Council (MCAC) released its final Michigan Climate Plan. The MCAC recommends specific policies and actions to achieve greenhouse gas reductions within the state of Michigan, and provides several recommendations for federal climate policy, including the development of federal greenhouse gas targets. Among the recommended state policies are several initiatives to increase the use of distributed electric generation, facilitate the use of carbon capture and storage technology, and increase the use of nuclear energy. The MCAC also includes several recommendations to increase energy efficiency by, among other things, adopting more stringent building codes and creating a system that encourages utilities to adopt efficiency initiatives.
A total of 54 recommendations were included in the Plan, and 33 were able to be quantified for their emissions reductions. The MCAC determined that following the recommendations would decrease Michigan’s emissions about 33 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 with net cumulative savings of about $10 billion.
The State has not yet completed a State Adaptation Plan, but creation of one was recommended in the Michigan Climate Plan.
The MCAC maintains a climate change website detailing climate change science and the work of both MCAC and the State. While the website does include links regarding climate change impacts and policies, these do not relate specifically to Michigan and are more focused at the national and international level.
Prior to the adoption of the Climate Action Plan, Michigan had already undertaken various policy and program actions in several key areas. The State has been working towards reducing GHG emissions, invested in a variety of alternative energy sources, and increasing its carbon sequestration. For a more detailed list of these actions, see MCAC’s website.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) participates on the Steering Committee for the development of The Climate Registry, a multi-state program designed to be an essential piece of infrastructure for the development of state and federal climate change programs. Over thirty (30) states in the United States and Mexico, and several Canadian provinces have already signed on to join The Climate Registry.
In November 2007, the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) held the Midwest Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Summit which resulted in six Midwest Governors and the Premier of Manitoba signing the Midwestern Governors Association Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. Michigan signed on as a Participating State. Under the Midwestern Accord, members agree to:
- Establish greenhouse gas reduction targets and timeframes consistent with MGA member states’ targets;
- Develop a market-based and multi-sector cap-and-trade mechanism to help achieve those reduction targets;
- Establish a system to enable tracking, management and crediting for entities that reduce GHG emissions; and
- Develop and implement additional steps as needed to achieve the reduction targets, such as a low-carbon fuel standards and regional incentives and funding mechanisms.
In addition to the Midwestern Accord, eight members of the MGA signed the Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest which lists a number of Midwest regional goals to transition the region to a lower carbon energy economy. See the Midwestern Governors Association website for more information about the Association’s climate change initiatives.
Although Michigan has not yet adopted a State Adaptation Plan, the state’s Climate Plan recommended:
“… that Michigan further analyze actions needed for adaptation. The MCAC was unable to examine the impacts of climate change on Michigan’s natural resources and the Great Lakes due to time and resource constraints. Therefore, the MCAC recommends that Michigan conduct additional analyses of the state’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and develop specific adaptation plans for key sectors.”
Section CCI-8. Adaptation and Vulnerability of the Climate Plan acknowledged that while climate change mitigation measures are important, there remains a need to understand how climate change will affect Michigan’s natural resources. In this regard, the Climate plan further suggests:
“The state of Michigan should undertake a comprehensive planning effort to assess and address the state’s vulnerability to climate change and adaptation opportunities.”
Using these two recommendations as guiding principles, it is hoped that Michigan will begin immediate work on a State Adaptation Plan to be released in the near future.
The workshop Preparing for Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region was held June 27, 2008 in Flint, Michigan. Representing an important step in Michigan’s climate change adaptation strategy, the Workshop set forth the following obejctives:
- Identify policy changes that will enable Great Lakes communities to adapt to climate change and protect major ecosystems.
- Identify strategies for implementing those policy changes.
The Workshop included presentations addressing current and future climate impacts, broad-scale policies that can influence adaptation, and climate change policy from a state and regional perspective. Workshop participants identified guiding principles, priority issues, focus areas, and implementation approaches to guide climate change adaptation efforts. Suggested guiding principles for adapting to climate change included:
- Focus adaptation efforts on restoring and promoting ecosystem resiliency, which is the ability of an ecosystem to cope with disturbances without shifting to become a different system;
- Pursue no-regrets, low-hanging fruit policies, policies that achieve both mitigation and adaptation, and policies that achieve multiple benefits;
- Avoid reinventing the wheel – existing policies provide opportunities to address climate change adaptation, and we can incorporate adaptation efforts into work already being done;
- Target actions at the scale (local, state, national) where implementation is most feasible and will achieve highest impact;
- Support research that increases confidence in predictions of climate change impacts;
- Be careful about linking current issues to climate adaptation. Will linking it advance progress or could it hurt?
- Be cognizant that challenges may be more sociopolitical than technical. Increased understanding of climate change processes will help prepare decision makers.
The Workshop identified shoreline management as a priority water resource issue, further noting that increased fluctuations of lake levels may increase erosion, periodically expose formerly submerged lands, and present navigation challenges. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these issues, making adaptation more urgent than ever. In order to effectively respond to these issues, the workshop recommended changes to current policies, and stated that it will be necessary to both enforce and strengthen policies already in motion, in addition to explicitly integrating climate change into existing and new policies. Overall the Workshop advocated a multidisciplinary approach to adapting to climate change. Workshops and discussions such as these will prove extremely beneficial in Michigan’s future adaptation planning, and will help consolidate ideas, strategies, and efforts. For more detailed information concerning the workshop’s proceedings and findings, see Preparing for Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region (Full Report).
In addition to guidance documents and suggested adaptation measures, current guiding coastal policies and legislation also indirectly influence Michigan’s ability to adapt to climate change. Part 323, Shorelands Protection and Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Public Act 451 regulates high-risk erosion areas along Michigan’s shorelines. High Risk Erosion Area Maps have 30-year and 60-year setback distances calculated from local long-term average erosion rates, and are used to regulate construction along the shoreline. Recession rates and required setbacks are updated every 10 years to account for fluctuations in water levels. A permit from the Department of Environmental Quality is required prior to construction in a high risk erosion area. Structures threatened by erosion must be moved landward (where possible), protected by costly shore protection, or lost.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of the Great Lakes published Great Lakes Trends: Into the New Millennium (2000). The report provides a discussion of Great Lakes water-level records, examining both recent and historical trends. Studies of water level fluctuations have shown that the Great Lakes naturally fluctuate in response to periods of above-average, below-average, or extreme precipitation, water supply, and temperature conditions. primary factors that determine water levels include: “climatic conditions, precipitation (and thus groundwater recharge), runoff, direct supply to the lakes, and the rate of evaporation.” Most regional Great Lakes models predict an increase in storm intensity and frequency with global warming, but it is unknown if the total precipitation levels will increase. A warming trend of the earth’s climate would be expected to result in an increased evaporation rate of the Great Lakes, and thus a reduction in the Great Lakes water levels. Thus, shoreline erosion, which has been a significant problem over time in this region, may become less of an issue.
However, a recent publication from Wisconsin, Building a Great Lakes Spatial Decision Support Toolbox to Address Comprehensive Plan Implementation and Coastal Hazards Resilience, warns:
“while the trend towards high lake levels has reversed, the current low levels pose a risk because they give a false sense of security for construction and development near the shore… furthermore, erosion processes continue even when the levels are low, especially through surface runoff on bluff tops and faces and through lakebed erosion”
As Michigan is facing these same concerns, it is vital Michigan continue to pursue an aggressive coastal management policy and prevent unwise development in the coastal zone.
Released in 2002, the report Status of Planning and Zoning in Michigan’s Great Lakes Shoreline Communities assesses coastal Michigan’s local land use policies, laws, and planning tools that influence land development along the shores of the Great lakes. Findings indicate that although improvements have been made regarding land use planning along the state’s shoreline, serious gaps remain. In recent years, the majority of coastal jurisdictions has formed planning commissions and increasingly utilizes sophisticated planning tools, particularly GIS. Nevertheless, land use planning remains largely uncoordinated throughout the coastal region, and planning remains highly fragmented. The report warns that if conditions do not improve, unplanned development will continue to cause both immediate and long-term problems for coastal ecosystems. In addition, unless planning is improved throughout Michigan’s coastal communities, long-term, sustainable coastal development may not be realized. Fortunately, more than 80% of coastal jurisdictions have adopted a Master Plan, and the extent of coastal planning is growing throughout the region. Yet there remains vast stretches of the shore where no county-level planning has been completed. Currently Lake Superior coastal counties have the lowest percent coverage of the five regions, while nearly all Lake Michigan coastal counties have some sort of Master Plan in place. Although not directly related to climate change, studies such as these will greatly increase Michigan’s ability to coordinate adaptation efforts along its shoreline, and be able to respond more quickly and effectively to changes in these regions.
In 2007, a group of nearly 50 organizations and over 75 scientists published State of the Straight: Status and Trends of Key Indicators Report, a long-term study of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. Analyzing past and future trends, the study reports that Lake Erie water levels are projected to decline one to two meters over the next 70 years. Partially funded by the Michigan Sea Grant Program, State of the Straight provides an overall assessment of ecosystem health in the region, aimed at educating both policy makers and the public, and includes sections specifically addressing climate change and water-level change in Lake Erie. More information on the related Detroit River-Western Lake Erie Basin Indicator Project.
The Winter 2007 issue of Michigan Coastal News highlighted the Michigan Sea Grant’s coastal community development projects. In order to encourage sustainable coastal communities, economies, and ecosystems, three coastal areas were chosen for the focus of research, education, and outreach initiatives. One-year projects designed to address issues of local importance were launched in the northeast, northwest, and southwest Lower Peninsula districts. For more information and additional initiatives, click here.
The Michigan Sea Grant website has links to current and past climate change research publications and adaptation measures. The website, however, does not detail the science behind climate change, nor does it provide comprehensive educational or outreach tools regarding climate change and climate change impacts. While climate change itself is not listed as a specific focus area, Michigan Sea Grant indirectly responds to climate change impacts by promoting healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable coastal development, and hazard resilience in coastal communities.
The Relationship Between Great Lakes Water Levels, Wave Energies and Shoreline Damage (1997), explores the link between periods of high water in the Great Lakes and coastal storm damage. Evaluation of water level and wave set-up at two sites has shown significant correlation to erosion events. The results of this study have enhanced understanding of Great Lakes shoreline dynamics, providing important management tools for coastal resource policy. Already, results have been incorporated into coastal management strategies and acted as a spring board for additional erosion studies. For the full report, click here.
Filling the Gaps: Environmental Protection Options for Local Governments (2003) was created to equip local officials with important information to consider when making local land use plans, adopting new environmentally focused regulations, or reviewing proposed development. Developed by the Michigan Coastal Management Program, the document could prove useful for local coastal managers faced with adapting to climate change.
- Impacts: Climate change impacts in the Great Lakes region, Donald Scavia, UM
- Coping: Adapting to climate change in the Great Lakes Basin, Tracy Mehan, Cadmus
- Scaling: Scanning state-level adaptation challenges and opportunities, Tim Eder, GLC
- Shorelands Management Program
- Shorelands Management Rules
- Memorandum to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
- EcoAdapt announced in November 2012 the release of the synthesis report, The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region. The report is the result of a survey of freshwater resource managers, planners, and practitioners in the region who are tasked with developing strategies to prepare for and respond to a changing climate. This synthesis provides: a summary of key regional climate change impacts; examples of over 100 adaptation initiatives from the region, focusing on activities in the natural and built environments as they relate to freshwater resources; fifty-seven case studies, detailing how adaptation is taking shape; and an overview of challenges and opportunities for freshwater adaptation in the Great Lakes region.
- NOAA's Climate Ready Great Lakes consists of three modules designed to help create a Great Lakes region that is “climate ready.” Toward this end, these modules provide stakeholders and decision makers with clear information about Great Lakes climate, as well as what we need to adapt to, why, and how. This project was sponsored by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network and the NOAA Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Team. Each module consists of a presentation (available in PowerPoint format) and supplemental materials, including worksheets, handouts, and evaluation forms. All of the supplemental materials are available here, or through the links here. The modules may be presented in their entirety, or users may wish to select a subset of the Powerpoint slides and support materials from one or more modules to suit their particular needs.
General Reference Documents
EPA's Risk-Based Adaptation website (under the heading of Climate-Ready Estuaries) provides several resources and tools to help users identify, analyze, prioritize and reduce their climate change risks.
An informative publication is Ten Principles for Coastal Development (2007) by the Urban Land Institute.
The Coastal States Organization (CSO) has published two reports relating to climate change adaptation. The first is Coastal Community Resilience: An Evaluation of Resilience as a Potential Performance Measure of the Coastal Zone Management Act (July 2008). (No link to this could be found.) Developed by CSO staff and CSO’s Coastal Resilience Steering Committee, the document demonstrates the value of resilience to coastal management and offers concrete recommendations for enhancing resilience at the state and local level. The second document is The Role of Coastal Zone Management Programs in Adaptation to Climate Change (September 2008)(PDF, 732KB). The report includes detailed results of a 2008 adaptation survey designed to obtain up to date information on the status of adaptation planning, priority information needs, and the anticipated resource needs of the coastal states, commonwealths, and territories.
In April 2009, the Heinz Center and Ceres announced the release of their Resilient Coasts - A Blueprint for Action, to outline steps to reduce risks and losses in the face of growing threats. The Heinz Center and Ceres produced the blueprint with a coalition of leading insurers, public officials, risk experts, builders, and conservation groups. The blueprint is endorsed by many groups, including The Travelers Institute, The Nature Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Wharton School, and the Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. The blueprint includes policy changes and common sense actions that could reduce economic losses from future storms and rising sea levels by as much as half along U.S. coastlines. The blueprint outlines specific recommendations, including: enabling planning for climate impacts by providing the necessary science and decision-making tools; requiring risk-based land use planning; designing adaptable infrastructure and building code standards to meet future risk; strengthening ecosystems as part of a risk mitigation strategy; developing flexible adaptation plans; maintaining a viable private property and casualty insurance market; and integrating climate change impacts into due diligence for investment and lending. The coalition urges the Obama administration, Congress, local leaders and the private sector to see that blueprint actions are implemented through regulation, investment, education, and other means.
In January 2010 the National Association of Counties released Building Resilient Coastal Communities: Counties and the Digital Coast which highlights many of the Digital Coast resources that counties use to address coastal flooding, habitat conservation and land use. More resources, tools and data are available through NOAA's Digital Coast website.
More recently, NOAA Coastal Management has developed a Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer as part of its Digital Coast website. Being able to visualize potential impacts from sea level rise is a powerful teaching and planning tool, and the Sea Level Rise Viewer brings this capability to coastal communities. A slider bar is used to show how various levels of sea level rise will impact coastal communities. Completed areas include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, with additional coastal counties to be added in the near future. Visuals and the accompanying data and information cover sea level rise inundation, uncertainty, flood frequency, marsh impacts, and socioeconomics.
StormSmart Coasts is a resource for coastal decision makers looking for the latest and best information on how to protect their communities from weather and climate hazards. StormSmart Legal is a new addition to the StormSmart Coasts Network that provides information about property rights, regulatory takings, and permissible government regulation in coastal areas.
In December 2012 NOAA's Climate Program Office released a report Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment. The report was produced in response to a request from the U.S. National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. It provides a synthesis of the scientific literature on global sea level rise, and a set of four scenarios of future global sea level rise. The report includes input from national experts in climate science, physical coastal processes, and coastal management.
NOAA's Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth website is organized into 10 chapters describing different elements essential for communities interested in implementing coastal and waterfront smart growth. By clicking on the individual chapters, you can get a description of each Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth Element, how this relates to the Coastal and Waterfront Issues, Tools and Techniques you can use in your community, and Case Studies of successes. Each chapter contains a navigation box allowing quick access to the information and the ability to download the content of each page. A 2012 report by NOAA and EPA on Achieving Hazard-Resilient Coastal & Waterfront Smart Growth presents ideas shared by smart growth and hazard mitigation experts related to building hazard-resilient coastal communities.
EPA has a website devoted to preparing for rising sea level and other consequences of changing climate. The premise of the Greenhouse Effect and Sea Level Rise website is that society should take measures to make our coastal development and ecosystems less vulnerable to a rise in sea level. The papers on this site demonstrate that numerous low-cost measures, if implemented, would make the United States less vulnerable to rising sea level. A more recent EPA website is Adapting to Climate Change, but was removed by the Trump administration.
Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities (USGS-NOAA, January 2013) emphasizes the need for increased coordination and planning to ensure U.S. coastal communities are resilient against the effects of climate change. The report examines and describes climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems and human economies and communities, as well as the kinds of scientific data, planning tools and resources that coastal communities and resource managers need to help them adapt to these changes. Case studies are presented for Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
In December 2012 the Lincoln Institute released Coastal States’ Climate Adaptation Initiatives: Sea Level Rise and Municipal Engagement (Working Paper). This paper explores how states and municipalities interact to address sea level rise, providing an overview of the state of practice, some reasons for different levels of action, and some of the needs of municipalities. It includes recommendations for ways states can provide adaptation support to municipalities.
Coastal Risk Reduction and Resilience: Using the Full Array of Measures, (pdf, 1.2 MB) published in September 2013, discusses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' capabilities to help reduce risks to coastal areas and improve resilience to coastal hazards through an integrated planning approach. Federal, state, local, non-governmental organization and private sector interests connected to our coastal communities possess a complementary set of authorities and capabilities for developing more integrated coastal systems. The effective implementation of an integrated approach to flood and coastal flood hazard mitigation relies on a collaborative, shared responsibility framework between Federal, state, and local agencies and the public.
The National Climate Assessment is an extensive report released through the U.S. Global Change Research Program and produced by a large team of experts with the guidance of the Federal Advisory Committee. The report is put out every few years, with the most recent one being the 2014 National Climate Assessment and the next report expected to be released in 2018-2019. It includes numerous studies on the impacts of climate change on different economic sectors and geographic regions in the U.S. An important and applicable portion of the report is the Response Strategies section, which lays out actionable ways that decision-makers ranging from the federal government to private-sector companies can take to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
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