State of the Beach/State Reports/IN/Erosion Response

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Indiana Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access65
Water Quality74
Beach Erosion5-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill5-
Shoreline Structures3 3
Beach Ecology2-
Surfing Areas25
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Indiana'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.

Erosion Policies and Guidance

Lake Michigan Coastal Program (LMCP) is the program by which the state of Indiana participates in the Coastal Zone Management Program. In the past, LMCP had identified a couple of impediments to coastal erosion management, including riparian ownership Lake Michigan, which limits the state’s control over land use above ordinary high water; and the lack of an adequate shoreline mapping inventory. Since then, the LMCP has developed several hazard mitigation model ordinances as a document called Coastal Hazards Planning Guidance for Indiana Coastal Communities through the Technical Assistance Planning Program (TAPP) and created a geodatabase of Indiana Lake Michigan Shoreline GIS Data Layer Maps to direct future development away from hazardous areas.

In the 2016-2020 Section 309 Assessment and Strategy Plan, LMCP has once again listed coastal hazards as a high priority for the program. It identified beaches/dunes/shoreline erosion, lake level fluctuation, and flooding as the most significant coastal hazards. Based on these hazards, the LMCP described its top three management priorities for 2016 to 2020:

  1. Beach and Dune Resource and Shoreline Community Protection
  2. Shoreline and Coastal Region Planning & Development
  3. Wetlands, Greenspace and Flood Protection

To address these priorities, the LMCP will review existing model ordinances for wetland and flooding protection, track model ordinance adoption, update coastal resource maps, create a web portal for coastal maps and coastal hazards toolbox, and develop an effective outreach and education program.

The strategy for addressing the coastal hazards enhancement area are as follows:

The enhancement area will be addressed in a cross cutting strategy. The LMCP shall develop a local government technical assistance program. The existing Coastal Hazard Ordinances and GIS map will be supplemented by enhanced wetland and flooding model ordinance development and technical assistance and training.

The goal of this strategy is as follows:

Integrated coastal training program for enhanced technical assistance. Develop a coastal training program framework for multiple enhancement areas. Program clearly explains functional application of all LMCP work products developed to date, as well as future work products. This framework will also explain to stakeholders how to use the LMCP’s work products in their planning efforts.

Through the implementation of this strategy, the LMCP hopes to have a comprehensive approach to outreach and education so that their stakeholders would be aware of all the resources and services LMCP has to offer. Raising such awareness would then allow coastal communities to better leverage existing resources towards significant issues and have more guidance in prioritizing their projects.

LCMP provides an information sheet with an overview of Indiana's Coastal Zone Management program.

In 2014, the National Park Service released the Environmental Impact Statement for Indiana Dunes National Seashore’s Shoreline Restoration and Management Plan, which covers most of the beaches along Indiana’s shoreline. It describes the vulnerability of the shoreline to erosion and explores possibilities for restoration of natural sediment movement. The full EIS is available in the document list.

Climate Change Adaptation


No substantial information could be obtained concerning Indiana’s climate change mitigation initiatives, and few adaptation actions were identified. The state has yet to develop either a Climate Action Plan or a State Adaptation Plan, and does not appear well prepared to address climate change impacts, along its lake-front or elsewhere. The state’s government website additionally lacks links or information pertaining to climate change, and no outreach or educational tools are available. While the state’s Lake Michigan Coastal Program is proving an important aspect of lake-shore management, it is suggested that Indiana undertake simple, yet effective steps towards climate change mitigation and adaptation in the near future. Indiana could begin by establishing a government sponsored climate change website, and gradually increase its involvement in regional climate change agreements. In terms of lake-shore management, it is recommended that the state establish statewide mandated setbacks, obtain LiDAR and erosion mapping for the entire shoreline, and undertake studies analyzing both the physical and economic effects of climate change impacts such as lake-level rise.


Indiana’s “coastal zone” is managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and is based on watershed boundaries that can vary between less than 2 miles to 17 miles from the shore. One of the most challenging coastal issues facing the state is shoreline erosion, a problem that is only expected to be exacerbated by climate change and lake-level rise. In its 2016-2020 Section 309 Plan, LCMP recognizes the high priority of coastal hazards yet acknowledges its lack of adequate climate change adaptation measures:

The following stakeholder comment summarizes concerns identified: “Local governments not having enough information concerning coastal storms/climate issues and therefore their planning efforts are lacking in this area - also not planning far enough into the future and results tend to be reactionary vs. thoughtfully planned out for longer time period.”

At this time, Indiana’s Lake Michigan Coastal Program (LMCP) does not have state-wide lake-level-change policies or initiatives specific to climate change. The state has not incorporated language in its floodplain regulations to address such situations. The individual lakefront communities, however, may have coastal standards separate from their floodplain standards. For more information, see this Illinois-Indians Sea Grant publication. The LMCP also released suggested model ordinances in a document called Coastal Hazards Planning Guidance Indiana Coastal Communities which can be adopted by municipalities to address coastal hazards and their impacts.

The state also suffers from the fact that it has neither jurisdiction over the regulation of sand dunes nor land use above the ordinary high water mark. Within the state’s shoreline zone, there is also currently no consistency in either the type of shoreline protection applied (e.g., seawall vs. revetment) or construction standards.

The report Coastal Dynamics Perspective (mid 1990s), further noted that most of the Indiana shoreline which might be prone to erosion and its consequential harm to the environment and property values has already been protected, and suggested that technical data on shoreline erosion potential should be refined and made more readily accessible to local governments and individuals. The report also recommended that model ordinances be drafted to help assure that coastal redevelopment proceeds in a "manner most likely to assure the future social and financial health of the communities." As the state currently lacks standardized, statewide setbacks, set-back requirements for new structures might be established. Draft ordinances for modular structures might also be prepared similar to legislation applicable in Michigan.

As noted in the Final Evaluation Findings – Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program August 2002 through April 2006, the majority of Indiana’s undeveloped shoreline is parkland with little likelihood of future construction. Much of the shoreline outside of the parkland has been stabilized, and especially urbanized areas, such as the state’s western portion, is largely protected by seawalls and breakwaters. Despite these measures, erosion remains a significant coastal hazard in Indiana, in particular Mt. Baldy, Ogden Dunes, and Beverley Shores.

The report further highlighted LMCP’s successful Coastal Grants Program that provides money at the local level for projects in areas such as public access, land-use planning, acquisition and restoration. The program provides excellent grant workshops and other technical assistance to prospective applicants. In the future, this program may be used to help identify and prioritize climate change adaptation initiatives. The LCMP has also initiated the development of a strong education and outreach component, which can be further expanded to include reference to climate change impacts.

On September 9, 1996, Indiana participated in the Sustainable Coastal Development for Southern Lake Michigan conference, which brought together both Illinois and Indiana citizens and organizations to consider research and education programs necessary to promote sustainable economic development on the southern coast of Lake Michigan. While the conference did not specifically address climate change adaptation, future conferences such as these will help the state begin to better prepare for climate change challenges.


  1. Lake Michigan Coastal Program
  2. Final Evaluation Findings – Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program May 2006 through September 2014
  3. EPA: What Climate Change Means for Indiana
  4. The Natural Coastline in Indiana - Coastal Dynamics website
  5. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
  6. Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment

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.

State of the Beach Report: Indiana
Indiana Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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