State of the Beach/State Reports/AL/Sea Level Rise

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As of June 2018, the state has made progress in preparing for climate change by developing a Draft Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan includes an extensive section on sea level rise and coastal land change. It also takes into account different rise rates, land change and king tides. The action strategies and timeline should feature more sea level rise preparations, especially regarding hard structure repair, and a need to increase the Coastal Construction Line. Regardless, this is a step in the right direction for Alabama.

Sea Level Rise Policies

1. State encourages regional or local SLR vulnerability assessments with mapping: Yes

US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE): A coastal vulnerability assessment with mapping is in the works, conducted jointly by Alabama state and ACOE. “Program Status: During the current phase of the ACCP, a coast-wide vulnerability assessment is being conducted to identify future risks due to sea level rise. During the first phase in the development of the ACCP, visioning exercises with various sectors of our coastal communities and the general public were conducted”.

Alabama State Hazard Mitigation Plan Draft: In June 2018, Alabama released its first draft of a hazard mitigation plan. In the Risk Assessment section, under Sea Level Rise and Coastal Land Change, the report acknowledges the differences in local SLR rates, and that Alabama has one of highest. The report also considers local changes in land mass (isostatic adjustment) and land formations that may be affected by SLR or coastal land change. It is considered a “certainty” but low on the priority list because of its gradual change, rather than episodic (such as an earthquake or tornado). A NOAA map is used to show projected water level rise.

2. State encourages regional or local SLR adaptation plans and implementation plans: Yes

Each county has its own County Hazard Mitigation Plan but not all consider climate change or sea level rise.

Hazard Mitigation Plan Draft: There are some mitigation goals, action plans with a timeline, and strategies for addressing coastal hazards, sea level rise and flooding. Unfortunately, this report does not address issues with the Coastal Construction Line.

3. State protects habitat that provide landward creep of coasts for wildlife (managed retreat, riparian areas, habitat connectivity): No

The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail: The state is recognized as a world-renowned birding location, but there are no apparent state regulations or policies to protect this important resource.

Alabama Coastal Wetlands Program: This report mentions efforts to protect riparian areas along with wetlands: “In addition, approximately 400,000 acres of coastal streams and estuarine waters, comprising 18% of the ACNPCP Management Area, are contained within the geographic area of Mobile and Baldwin counties. These coastal waters possess a large number of wetland, riparian and shoreline vegetative buffers that serve to reduce NPS impacts. The 6th largest watershed area in the United States drains into this deltaic and estuarine complex contained within the southwestern region of Alabama." While protection of riparian buffers along wetland is critical, more robust and proactive protections to ensure habitat connectivity would benefit the state's wildlife in light of climate change.

4. State coordinates with municipalities, and encourages local plans and community outreach: No

Climate and Resilience Community of Practice: Run by Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, this program held a community conference for climate change planning in 2017. While this is important, more statewide efforts to coordinate with local municipalities and communities about planning for climate change and increasing coastal resiliency is critical.

As of November 2018, there are no climate change resources on Alabama’s Department of Natural Resources website, Outdoor Alabama.

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