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

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Ohio Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access92
Water Quality62
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures6 2
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas23
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 Ohio'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

Ohio's Section 309 Programmatic Objectives for Coastal Hazards are:

I. Direct future public and private development and redevelopment away from hazardous areas, including the high hazard areas delineated as FEMA V-zones and areas vulnerable to inundation from sea and Great Lakes level rise.
II. Preserve and restore the protective functions of natural shorelines features such as beaches, dunes, and wetlands.
III. Prevent or minimize threats to existing populations and property from both episodic and chronic coastal hazards.

Ohio defines a Coastal Erosion Area as a designated land area along the Lake Erie shore that is anticipated to be lost due to Lake Erie related erosion if preventative measures are not taken. Specifically, it is a zone that begins at the water’s edge and extends landward a specific distance based upon the rate of recession along that stretch of bluff, bank or beach ridge. The Coastal Erosion Area includes all land predicted to erode within a 30-year period if that distance totals 9 or more feet. Approximately one-third of the Ohio shoreline is designated as a Coastal Erosion Area.

The objective of the Coastal Erosion Area program is to promote wise land use. A Permit must be obtained to construct a new building or septic system within a Coastal Erosion Area. The Coastal Erosion Area Permit requires that measures be taken to effectively protect the building or septic system from shore erosion and bluff instability. As a result, the risk of damage to or loss of property, possessions, infrastructure and life due to coastal erosion will be greatly reduced.

In accordance with Ohio Revised Code Section 1506.07, a Coastal Erosion Area Permit is required prior to construction of a new building ( i.e. residential, commercial, industrial, institutional or agricultural) or septic system within a Coastal Erosion Area. Furthermore, an addition of 500 square feet, as measured at ground level, to an existing building also requires a permit. The only exceptions to these requirements are if the property is not immediately adjacent to Lake Erie or if the building is a stand alone structure not designed for human occupation, such as a garage or shed.

To assist property owners in their efforts to control lake-based erosion, the ODNR is developing the Lake Erie Shore Erosion Management Plan (LESEMP). The LESEMP aims to promote successful means of controlling erosion by developing erosion control recommendations that are based on regional site conditions. Each chapter of the Lake Erie Shore Erosion Management Plan’s Model Guidance Document represents a different region of Ohio’s Lake Erie shore.

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."

Climate Change Adaptation

The Faces of Climate Change Adaptation: The Need for Proactive Protection of the Nation’s Coasts (Coastal States Organization, May 2010) states:

"Climate change does not only impact the sea coasts of the United States, it also greatly impacts the Great Lakes. Lake levels in the Great Lakes are projected to decline in the summer due to increased evaporation caused by higher temperatures, and also in winter due to a decrease in lake ice. The greatest declines are expected for Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Under the lower emissions scenario, water levels in Lake Erie are projected to fall less than one foot toward the end of the century, but almost 1.5 feet under the higher-emissions scenario. A decline of this magnitude can have significant economic, aesthetic, recreational, and environmental impacts, such as significantly lengthening the distance to the lakeshore, affecting beach and coastal ecosystems, exposing toxic contaminants, and impairing recreational boating and commercial shipping. In addition to lower lake levels, the Great Lakes region will also see increased flooding as a result of precipitation change. Heavy rains also increase runoff that only washes pollutants into waterways, and in cities like Cincinnati and Columbus, cause raw sewage to spill from sewers into rivers. Additionally, climate change could cause a loss of wetlands that would be devastating to Ohio. Between 1700 and 1980 Ohio lost 90% of its wetlands, primarily due to industrialization development. Climate change could further threaten remaining wetlands, particularly ecosystems within the Lake Erie drainage. If the level of Lake Erie falls, the wetland habitats that depend on inundation of freshwater from the lake would be adversely affected.

Economically, the Great Lakes states will suffer in the face of climate change. A survey by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services reported that about $2.96 billion was spent through fishing, hunting, and wildlife recreation activities in Ohio in 2006. Increasing temperatures in Ohio would result in range shifts and altered habitat for fish, which could significantly affect the recreational and commercial fishing in the state. In fact, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists states that Lake Erie’s world famous walleye fisheries could be affected by projected climate changes in the region. Certainly, all coastal states, and the nation as a whole, will feel the environmental and economical effects of climate change."

In May 2007, the State of Ohio joined with 30 other states to help found The Climate Registry. This organization plans to help Ohio industries play an important role in recognizing and addressing the impact of GHG emissions on climate change. In addition to participating in the Registry, Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski has formed an internal Ohio EPA climate change task force to monitor federal and state developments on this subject. Task force members are actively monitoring the many global warming bills currently under consideration in Congress and Director Korleski is evaluating Ohio EPA’s next steps to address climate change at the state level. At the Midwestern Governors Association’s Energy Summit in November 2007, many Midwestern governors convened in Milwaukee to discuss a region wide strategy to address greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy. Several Governors signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a commitment Midwest states agreed upon to address greenhouse gas emissions. Ohio joined as an "observer."

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a Climate Change in Ohio website that examines "how climate is projected to change in Ohio; how these changes may impact human health, agriculture, water supplies, property and infrastructure, as well as tourism and recreation; and how Ohio residents can help reduce these potential impacts by pursuing several solutions strategies."

Perhaps because of projections that climate change may result in lower lake levels in Lake Erie, there has been little action regarding coastal climate change adaptation in Ohio in comparison to most other coastal states.

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.

Lake Erie Bluffs Acquisition

Owned and managed by Lake Metroparks, the Lake Erie Bluffs provides approximately 600 acres of lakefront property that permanently protects valuable coastal wetlands, meadow and 9,000 feet of undeveloped Lake Erie shoreline. The beach area hosts trees, shrubs and small plants including the majority of the preserve’s rare plants while the wetlands area is home to dozens more rare plant and animal species documented by biologists from Lake Metroparks and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The project entailed a partnership among federal, state, and local agencies to acquire and preserve natural beach and coastal wetlands habitat in Lake County, Ohio approximately 30 miles east of Cleveland.

The Ohio Coastal Management Program partnered with Lake Metroparks to successfully compete for three separate Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) grants made available through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in federal fiscal years (FFY) 2010, 2011, and 2012. The Ohio Coastal Management Program leveraged the successful CELCP grants to also successfully compete for National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in FFY 2012. In total, these four grants enabled the acquisition of 516 acres of habitat, making up the bulk of the Lake Erie Bluffs.

Prior to these acquisitions, the Lake Erie Bluffs property was located in a Joint Economic Development District prioritized for industrial and commercial development in Lake County. The main access road to the preserve already had the electric, sewer and water utility infrastructure in place to support this type of development. Instead, Lake Erie Bluffs now provides for the permanent protection of coastal wetlands as well as a rare stretch of unhardened shoreline along the Ohio Lake Erie shore. This allows for natural bluff erosion, leaving intact a much needed sand source to feed the coastal littoral system and provide for continued natural erosion control.

The Ohio Coastal Management Program provided the key linkage between Lake Metroparks and two sources of federal grant funds. The coastal program staff’s familiarity and expertise with identifying and navigating through the world of federal grant opportunities was an essential component in matching federal funds with locally available non-federal funds to develop a preserve that provides significant opportunities for public access, habitat preservation, and landscape conservation design. The preserve provides an opportunity for adaptive management of a natural shoreline rather than relying on hardened erosion control structures and an intensely developed upland area that could be susceptible to coastal storm damage and, potentially, the expenditure of emergency management funds that would be used to rebuild storm-damaged infrastructure. Lake Erie Bluffs also provides many opportunities for passive public recreation including hiking, picnicking, fishing, bird watching, and kayaking.

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: Ohio
Ohio Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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