State of the Beach/State Reports/PR/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. Evaluation of this indicator brings attention to the states that are taking proactive roles in natural beach preservation and natural 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? If a state can answer 'yes' to most of these questions then its rank is high and 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 Puerto Rico'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 2009 Puerto Rico CZM Program document contains the following text:
- 15.00 Identify risks of flooding, landslides, geological faults, and swells in regional plans, ordinance plans, and other physical planning documents.
- 15.01 Verify that the Land Use Plans and Municipal Land use Plans identify these types of lands.
- 15.02 Select compatible uses with lands’ flooding conditions on the Land Use Plans and Territorial Ordinance Plans.
- 15.03 Use transference of development rights mechanisms, voluntary conveyance, and lot redistribution to keep land that is susceptible to these risks free of construction that could be exposed to said risks.
- 16.00 Protect the population currently residing in flood susceptible zones or in areas affected by swells.
- 16.01 Create awareness among the population residing in flood-prone zones about the dangers of living in said zones and comply with regulations by promoting the installation of signs and by identifying areas susceptible to natural risks.
- 16.02 Support construction of flood-control works aimed at protecting life and property, also taking into consideration the chemical and physical characteristics of nearby water bodies and adjoining land.
- 16.03 Prepare and implement mitigation plans aimed at protecting life and property.
- 16.04 Promote relocation plans for the population affected by floods when flood-control works are not socially, economic and environmentally viable.
- 16.05 Prepare watershed management plans that foster the fast recuperation of water bodies.
- 17.00 Discourage land development and construction of properties for urban expansion in flood zones unless they are providing flood control works that guarantee the protection of life, property, and natural and environmental resources.
- 18.00 Promote agricultural development in flooding areas with a potential for said use. Promote recreational uses and other activities deemed appropriate in flood-prone areas.
The following discussion appears to the 2009 Puerto Rico CZM Program document:
In addition to natural causes, human activities have become a coastal erosion risk factor. This process has been aggravated by the proliferation of rigid structures along the coast in a highly mobile and changing environment. Other engineered rigid structures located on the coasts are presented as measures to protect property – like embankments and breakwaters – have the effect of accelerating the process of coastal erosion, in addition to high costs.Another measure to discourage development in areas designated as coastal barriers is their ineligibility for flood insurance through NFIP. Insurance is only available if the structure was built or the development was approved prior to the approval of this law. However, insurance will not be renewed if an existing structure is substantially rehabilitated or if it is deteriorated.
Activities which occur in watersheds’ upper parts also contribute to the processes of coastal erosion, changing the sediment supply reaching them. For example, when damming a river, sand is trapped behind the gates and starts settling, as has occurred in the La Plata and Carraízo Dams. While downstream, on route to the sea, the river picks up materials such as clay and silt. This causes less sand to reach the mouth of the rivers and beaches and, instead, the sand reaching the coast is thinner and prone to be removed more rapidly out to sea by wave action (Bush et al., 1995). These actions hinder the natural erosion process – necessary for some of the beaches that do not have coral reefs – because the sediments contribute a part of the materials needed to keep it stable.
Other actions exacerbate the erosion process, among which are: the illegal extraction of sand from river mouths, dunes and beaches; agricultural practices without proper controls; the paving and excessive urbanization and the removal of mangroves. These actions increase the amount of sediment reaching coastal waters, destroying the protective reef offshore. Although these situations represent physical and economic damage, no quantitative estimates for Puerto Rico have been inventoried.
Different types of measures can be taken to address the problem of coastal erosion. Some include: (1) protection of natural systems such as mangroves and coral reefs, which protect the coast and slow erosion; (2) redirect development outside the erosion hazard areas; (3) monitor compliance with the statutes governing the activities that can accelerate erosion, like sand extraction; (4) feeding the beaches; and (5) the construction of structures at an angle, rip raps or jacks which allow energy dissipation.
The OPP-PRLUP, establishes policy related to urban development. Objective 1.02 points to the need to "Prevent and discourage urban sprawl and the development of isolated urban centers using as criteria ... that the land where the project is located not be ... susceptible to significant erosion, landslides, and/or environmentally critical." (See policies under Objective 1.02.)
Implementing the Policy
The "Regulation for Use, Surveillance, Conservation, and Management of the Territorial Waters and Submerged Lands and the Maritime Zone", supra, states that every application for granting an authorization or concession on public property will be done by assessment of the likely impact, including cumulative impact, of the proposed activity on the public interest. To determine the suitability of uses, the regulation states that it must evaluate several factors, including erosion. This regulation also identifies areas with severe problems of erosion among the sites unsuitable for authorizations or concessions.
The "Regulations for the Extraction, Excavation, Removal and Dredging of Earth Crust Components", supra, states that a permit from the Secretary of the DNER is also required for removing material from the Earth's crust for commercial purposes. Among its evaluation criteria, this regulation states that the effects of the proposed activity on erosion of the maritime zone have to be considered when evaluating a permit application.
Moreover, the PRPB’s Coastal Zone Unit is in charge of the Federal Consistency Procedure with the PRCZMP, which seeks, among other things, to prevent inappropriate development in areas subject to coastal erosion. Also, the PRPB, empowered by the "Special Flood Hazard Areas Regulation", supra, has the power to restrict or prohibit developments which have the potential to increase flood waters or speeds resulting in increased erosion. This agency also has other laws and regulations which indirectly work with the erosion problem. RPA, meanwhile, has the responsibility of ensuring that no building on the Island is constructed, altered, eliminated, or transferred, nor any land developed or altered, unless the action has been approved by the agency in compliance with planning laws and regulations.
Moreover, in 1982 the CBRA law was passed, which is intended to discourage development in vulnerable and high risk coastal areas designated as coastal barriers, particularly those conducted with federal funds.
Areas considered as coastal barriers, being composed mainly of consolidated sediments, are highly unstable for construction and are susceptible to erosion. These form the first line of defense against the winds and tides caused by weather events and may consist of mangroves, sand bars or islets and cays.
Through the CBRA, undeveloped areas are designated to serve as protection against high winds and wave energy, in order to protect life and property from hurricane ravages, as well as the conservation of natural areas. Currently, in Puerto Rico there are 8,431 ha declared as coastal barriers (Zinn, 2003). These are located primarily in the Southwestern portion and Northeast portion of the Island.
Flooding is a significant coastal hazard in Puerto Rico. More than two-thirds of the land in the commonwealth at risk of flooding is located in the coastal plain. As commercial and residential development has expanded outward from core cities into coastal areas, the potential for property damage from flooding has escalated. Additionally, the effects of urbanization have contributed to an overall increase in flood-prone areas, resulting in flooding on properties that previously had not been at risk.
These risks were made all too clear after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in the Fall of 2017. The lack of careful coastal zone management and hazard preparedness exacerbated the destruction experienced by the island, where six months after the storm, millions of people are still without running water, electricity, and proper shelter. Check out "You build castles on the sand, they will fall into the sea" for more details on the island's coastline and coastal development post Maria.
A variety of methods may be used to reduce flooding and flood damage, including:
- Constructing flood control projects;
- Reforesting upland watersheds;
- Reducing excessive grading and paving;
- Guiding urban expansion toward low-risk areas; and
- Prohibiting new structures in high-risk areas.
The last two of these examples, guiding urban expansion toward low-risk areas and prohibiting new structures in high-risk areas, are perhaps the most directly effective means of reducing flooding and flood damage. Within the networked PRCMP, such activities fall under PB’s purview. PB’s “Floodable Areas Regulation,” adopted in 1972, is intended to prohibit inappropriate development in flood plains. Furthermore, the development control process is meant to provide some degree of protection against flood hazards. However, the coastal permitting process and enforcement efforts in Puerto Rico do not always achieve the intent of land-use regulations. During and subsequent to OCRM's June 2005 evaluation site visit, the evaluation team received information about permitted construction projects in high-risk flood areas.
Puerto Rico has a 6-meter public right-of-way with no structures, a 50-meter setback from the Territorial Maritime Zone (TMZ), and 2.5 times height setback within in 400 meters of the TMZ, according to the report "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores" (T. Bernd-Cohen and M. Gordon), Coastal Management 27:187-217, 1999.
The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) entered into a land acquisition agreement in early March 2007 that will protect a large area of land on the northeast coast. This land has high natural and ecological values and is adjacent to the largest mangrove lagoon in Puerto Rico: the Piñones Natural Reserve. The land previously had been slated for a large development which had received approval over a decade ago, and would have included the largest hotel development in Puerto Rico. Governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila announced that the Puerto Rico Government will buy part of the land from the developer who has agreed to abandon its construction plans. DNER continues to promote the acquisition of lands under the Land stewardship Program, Natural Heritage Program, and the High Ecological Value Trust, and recently submitted its first proposal to the Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection program. Other conservation partners such as the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also acquire lands for protection. A project by Governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila called "Heritage 100,000" aims to acquire over 100,000 acres over the next 10 years. During the past two years, over 10,000 acres of important ecological lands have been already acquired and designated for protection in Puerto Rico. For more information, contact Ernesto Diaz, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Climate Change Adaptation
Although a low-lying island, standing to be significantly affected by climate change impacts such as sea level rise, Puerto Rico has yet to adopt either comprehensive mitigation or adaptation plans. Information concerning even basic coastal development regulations is scarce, and there is a lack of coastal mapping and modeling data. While the Commonwealth does maintain a climate change website detailing specific initiatives, Puerto Rico most assuredly remains in the earliest stages of climate change planning. Basic mitigation and adaptation strategies should thus be more actively pursued in the coming years, and should build upon successful models of other coastal states.
While Puerto Rico is in the process of exploring a number of alternative and renewable energy options, and has continually recognized the importance of decreasing its dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating global warming impacts, the Island still lacks a comprehensive Climate Action Plan and specific mitigation strategies. In order to remedy this situation, in May 2007, Puerto Rico appointed a Commission on Climate as a result of a climate change roundtable held by the University of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico's Coastal Management Program. The governor has also initiated regular meetings of a Climate Change Advisory Committee to discuss possible mitigation activities. However, there is very little information regarding either the Commission or its actions. The Puerto Rican government nevertheless maintains a Climate Change Council website that provides information on Working Groups, relevant publications, and a Climate Change Tool.
As with Puerto Rico’s climate change mitigation measures, adaptation initiatives have also been slow to gain significant momentum across the island. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth is increasingly recognizing the importance of climate change adaptation, and thus working towards enhancing climate change knowledge among coastal communities and increasing the coastal area’s adaptive capacity. The Impact of Sea Level Rise on Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis released by the World Bank recognizes the serious global threat of sea level rise due to climate change. The Report assesses the consequences of continued sea level rise for 84 developing countries, including Puerto Rico. Using GIS software, the study was able to overlay the best available, spatially-disaggregated global data on critical impact elements with inundation zones projected for sea level rise of 1-5 meters. Given this projected sea level rise, nearly 10% of Puerto Rico’s population stands to be significantly affected.
According to Puerto Rico's CZM website (Google Translate of the website text):
"The Coastal Zone Management Program carries out projects to assess vulnerability to coastal hazards, as well as to develop viable adaptation strategies.
In Puerto Rico, the population's main concerns regarding the impacts of global climate change are related to the risks to life and property associated with potential increases in the frequency and magnitude of atmospheric phenomena such as storms and hurricanes, tidal waves, cyclones, floods and coastal erosion. However, there are effects less known to the population, for example: health impacts, food production and biodiversity.
Five coastal municipalities in the north (Dorado), north-east (Loíza), south (Salinas), west (Rincón) and an island-municipality (Culebra) were selected for the development of pilot plans of community-based adaptation to climate change. In these plans were evaluated with the community the risks and vulnerabilities of their municipality; as well as possible adaptation measures (protection, management and restoration)."
In addition, Puerto Rico CZM Program submitted a grant proposal to NOAA for Development of an Online Self-Assessment & Solutions Tool for Individuals, Communities, and Municipalities of Puerto Rico for Resilient Coastal Communities and Healthy Ecosystems through a 2014-2016 Coastal Management Fellowship program.
"In order to address the need for greater education and outreach on coastal hazards in Puerto Rico and to better communicate the findings of the Puerto Rico Climate Change Council (PRCCC), the PRCZMP is envisioning the development of an Online Self-Assessment & Solutions Tool for Individuals, Communities, and Municipalities of Puerto Rico. The 2014-2016 NOAA Coastal Management Fellow would research existing English and Spanish self-assessment, risk assessment and adaptation tools and design and program an online tool that is most appropriate for Puerto Rico. Existing tools that the fellow would either pull from or work to develop formal collaborations with would be the NOAA Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk, the Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation Tool (CCORAL), the Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s Coastal Resilience Index, the Homeowners Guide to Preparing for Hazard Events, the Vulnerability-Consequence Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) process, and other FEMA approved tools. The tool development would also include showcasing and testing the tool at community workshops as part of the current PRCZMP efforts to establish eight coastal community climate adaptation pilot projects."
According to the report State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores (Bernd-Cohen & Gordon, 1999), the Puerto Rican coastal zone is currently regulated through designation of a 6-meter public right-of-way (with no structures), a 50-meter setback from the Territorial Maritime Zone (TMZ), and 2.5 times height setback within in 400 meters of the TMZ. To further enhance these regulations, and better prepare Puerto Rico for climate change, the Island is also conducting a number of mapping projects to identify limits of inundation from historical tsunamis, hurricane storm surges, and 100-year flood zones. Currently, however, these maps do not include sea level rise. New GIS maps incorporating current coastal flood maps with satellite images and census data have also recently been completed. The University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program has additionally conducted a coastal vulnerability study using flood maps prepared by NOAA’s SLOSH storm-surge model.
Coastal hazards are further addressed through Puerto Rico Sea Grant’s Coastal Hazards of Puerto Rico website. The purpose of the site is to present an overview of the hazard mitigation work being done to specifically address the risks of hurricanes, beach erosion, and tsunamis. The page presents available coastal flood maps for Puerto Rico for both hurricane and tsunami-induced flooding, with future plans to include coastal erosion rates.
As a low-lying coastal area, Puerto Rico faces particularly serious flood risks. The Final Evaluation Findings: Puerto Rico Coastal Management Program (March 2001 through May 2005) determined that more than two-thirds of Puerto Rico’s land at risk of flooding is located in the coastal plain. As commercial and residential development has expanded outward from core cities into coastal areas, the potential for property damage from flooding has correspondingly escalated. Intense urbanization and a burgeoning coastal population have further increased the number of flood-prone areas throughout the island.
Adopted in 1972, Puerto Rico’s Floodable Areas Regulation is intended to prohibit inappropriate development in flood plains. Unfortunately, while development control processes are meant to provide some degree of protection against flood hazards, issues with the coastal permitting system and slack enforcement have, in many cases, failed to achieve the intent of land-use regulations. Due to these short comings, improper construction continues to occur in coastal hazard zones.
The report also noted that permitting in Puerto Rico’s coastal zone remains a very complicated, “opaque” process involving many agencies with varying jurisdictions. Coordination among these permitting agencies is further inadequate, and clear, consistent information and instructions are neither provided to permit applicants nor to the general public. In order to more effectively adapt to climate change in the future, it will be necessary for Puerto Rico to organize its coastal zone management program in an efficient manner, streamline the permitting process, and enhance lines of communication both within and outside agencies.
In addition to permitting issues, Puerto Rico’s coastal management suffers from a lack of coastal zone mapping. Established in 1886 by the Spanish Port Law, Puerto Rico’s maritime zone, for example, comprises the land component of Puerto Rico’s public trust. Since its establishment, Puerto Rico’s DNER has been responsible for delineating this area, yet as of 2006, the Island had yet to complete the delineation of its maritime zone. Thus, although the maritime zone is a critical component of Puerto Rico’s coastal management laws and policies, the Island’s Coastal Management Program has been operating for over 25 years without a comprehensive map of its coastal zone.
Despite these shortcomings, Puerto Rico Sea Grant has identified climate change science, policy, and societal impacts as priority needs. Objective 6 of PR Sea Grant’s Implementation Plan 2006-2008, for example, involved working with UNESCO on a program to explain the concepts of climate change and sea level rise and their impact on Caribbean coastal communities. The Program thus focuses on assisting Caribbean island communities in understanding and coping with climate change impacts, and aims to:
- Work with two communities to implement specific measures to reduce energy consumption and evaluate the results, using a participatory approach
- Conduct awareness seminars about conservation measures and responses to climate change and sea level rise
- Publicize the activities through press, radio and television and the Small Islands Voice Global internet forum.
The Puerto Rico Sea Grant additionally supports the Coastal Community Development Program (CCD), with the goal to establish sustainable development as the fundamental principle for the use and development of the Island’s coasts. The CCD works to promote capacity building in areas of sustainable economic development, smart growth and coastal resources conservation.
Cambio Climático: Puerto Rico ante el Calentamiento Global (Climate Change: Puerto Rico in the Face of Global Warming) was published in the September 2007 issue of Marejada, Puerto Rico Sea Grant’s coastal periodical. The issue discusses climate change science and climate change impacts expected to affect Puerto Rican ecosystems and along the Island’s coasts. An analysis of the Island’s vulnerability to hurricanes and tropical storms, along with suggestions for how the Island and coastal communities can respond to climate change effect, is also included. One article entitled Esfuerzos para disminuir el cambio climatic global (“Efforts to lessen global climate change”) recognizes that climate change response requires both adaptation and mitigation actions. While the article briefly refers to adaptation in the form of relocating coastal construction outside hazardous areas, it primarily provides suggestions for how to mitigate climate change.
Puerto Rico’s DNER promotes the acquisition of lands under the Land Stewardship Program, Natural Heritage Program, High Ecological Value Trust, and most recently, the Heritage 100,000 initiative. In early March 2007, Puerto Rico acquired a large area of land on the Island’s northeast coast, adjacent to the Island’s largest mangrove lagoon, Piñones Natural Reserve. Originally slated for resort development, most of the land will now be preserved under the Island’s authority. Protecting important, coastal habitats, such as mangroves, will help the Island naturally adapt to rising sea levels.
- The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, Overview: Islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, US Global Change Research Program (2000)
- Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaption Strategies PowerPoint presentation by Ernesto L. Dias of the NRA/DNER (2012)
- Caribbean beach changes and climate change adaptation by Gillian Cambers
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.
Director, Coastal Hazards Center of UPRM
Professor (Physical Oceanography) - Department of Marine Sciences
Coastal Hazards Specialist - Sea Grant Program
Physics, Geology and Marine Sciences Building; F-420
University of Puerto Rico
P.O. Box 9013
Mayaguez, P.R. 00681-9013
Tel: 1-787-265-5461 (direct)
1-787-832-4040 x 3201 (University switchboard)
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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