Alabama has setback policies and uses the Coastal Construction Line to give the coastal state agency jurisdiction over controlling seaward structures. Unfortunately, the line hasn’t been updated since 1979. A hard line on a dynamic shoreline has resulted in areas where the line is actually underwater, causing the state agency to lose jurisdiction over controlling, preventing or permitting coastal structures and repairs. Alabama has also identified a goal to eliminate development in high hazard areas, yet progress or implementation of this goal is not evident.
Coastal Development Policies
1. State has robust development setback policies: No
Coastal Alabama Living Shorelines Policies, Rules, and Model Ordinance Manual: “Shoreline stabilization projects must be set back 10 feet from riparian lines of adjacent property owners (Ala. Admin. Code r. 220-4-.09(4)(b)(11) & riparian lines (Ala. Admin. Code r. 220-4-.09(4)(c)(4). Riprap can go 10 ft waterward of mean high tideline (ADCNR) but ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) states riprap can only be placed at or above mean high tide line and landward of wetlands”.
NOAA Final Evaluation Findings (12/2007 to 8/2016): ADEM established a Coastal Construction Line, that prevents new construction waterside of the line - yet it hasn’t been updated since its inception almost 40 years ago, and in many places in the line is under water. "The development of the coastal construction control line regulations did not take into account erosion, and currently there are areas where the coastal construction control line is located in the water, particularly along the Dauphin Island coast. Currently, there is no process to regularly update the coastal construction control line and take into account erosion. In areas where the coastal construction control line is located in the water, the state no longer has regulatory authority under coastal program regulation 335-8-2.08 to protect the beach dune system and direct development to lower risk areas”.
2. State restricts new developments in coastal hazard areas: No
Section 309, Coastal Area Management Program: “ADEM Division 8 Regulations does not address high hazards areas directly. However, the regulations define “primary dune system” which means a ridge or series of ridges of unconsolidated and usually mobile sands lying landward of the upper limit of Gulf beaches that serve as the principal defense against storm-wave attack”.
ADEM Division 335:8 Coastal Area Management Program: Permits for developments do require a lot of information about site plans, as well as an Environmental Impacts/Hazard Study, wave height study, Beach and Dune Enhancement Plan, dune walkovers and fencing to control pedestrian movement, maintenance and vegetation plans: “require that an ADEM permit or other authorization be obtained prior to constructing any new structure or substantially improving any existing structure, on a property intersected by or seaward of the ADEM construction control line. This includes habitable structures (single family dwellings, duplexes, motels, hotels and condominiums), non-habitable structures (gazebos, dune walkovers, etc.) and hardened erosion control structures”
“ADEM Division 8 Coastal Program rules require that a permit be obtained for all new commercial and residential developments located wholly or partially within the coastal area which are or will be greater than five (5) acres in size and which: have areas which are or could be delineated as wetlands; or are adjacent to coastal waters; or are intercepted by the coastal control line”.
NOAA Final Evaluation Findings (12/2007 to 8/2016): “As of 2014, local governments have been delegated the authority to manage construction activities in their respective communities along the entirety of Alabama’s Gulf-fronting beaches”
3. State restricts repairing developments in coastal hazard areas: No
ADEM Division 335:8 Coastal Area Manaagement Program: “require that an ADEM permit or other authorization be obtained prior to constructing any new structure or substantially improving any existing structure, on a property intersected by or seaward of the ADEM construction control line. This includes habitable structures (single family dwellings, duplexes, motels, hotels and condominiums), non-habitable structures (gazebos, dune walkovers, etc.) and hardened erosion control structures”
4. State has policies that protect natural resources that provide coastal hazard mitigation benefits: Yes
Living shorelines projects have a long term goal of becoming reefs for marine habitats.
Alabama Coastal Wetlands Program: “Alabama’s awareness of these resources, has resulted in the development of watershed oriented projects and programs that have proactively incorporated CZARA-§6217 (g) guidance management measures within the ACNPCP Management Area. ADEM’s Mobile Branch and Coastal staff have also participated in the development and approval of two coastal mitigation banks, totaling over 1,900 wetland acres that service the ACNPCP Management Area.”
Wetland Program Summary: “Alabama’s coastal program does work on climate change issues related to wetlands. Work includes efforts related to: sea level rise, storms, flooding, impacts, and resiliency.”
Habitat Mapper Program, from Dauphin Island Sea Lab and a Prioritization Guide for Coastal Habitat Protection and Restoration in Mobile and Baldwin Counties are good examples of efforts to identify and protect natural resources that provide coastal hazard mitigation benefits.
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