State of the Beach/State Reports/OR/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, 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 Oregon'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

State policy (Statewide Planning Goal 18, Implementation Requirement 2) states:

"Local governments and state and federal agencies shall prohibit residential developments and commercial and industrial buildings on beaches, active foredunes, on other foredunes which are conditionally stable and that are subject to ocean undercutting or wave overtopping, and on interdune areas (deflation plains) that are subject to ocean flooding. Other development in these areas shall be permitted only if the findings ... are presented and it is demonstrated that the proposed development:
(a) Is adequately protected from any geologic hazards, wind erosion, undercutting, ocean flooding and storm waves; or is of minimal value; and
(b) Is designed to minimize adverse environmental effects."

However, Oregon does not have a mandatory statewide setback. The siting of new development is regulated at the local level. Several of the coastal counties and cities employ both fixed and floating setbacks. Many base siting decisions on site-specific geotechnical reports.

The 2001 Assessment summarizes examples of projects and activities conducted by the OCMP to encourage the siting of new development away from hazardous areas. Two of these are noted below.

Oceanfront construction setback methodologies for a range of dune, bluff, and inlet shoreline settings were developed and tested. Based on this work, the document Chronic Coastal Natural Hazards Model Overlay Zone was completed in 1998. In addition to a model ordinance for regulating development in hazardous coastal areas, it includes a planner's guide for jurisdictions considering adoption of the model ordinance and a technical guide for professionals expected to implement the ordinance.

In regards to setback distances for development, each city and county jurisdiction has their own requirements, but most often development on oceanfront property must be evaluated by a geological consultant, who then makes the recommendation for a specific setback distance. This is a complicated issue being addressed by an interagency/stakeholders group. Improving the content and review process of site specific geologic reports is a key issue in creating more effective setback requirements for new construction.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has conducted hazard zone mapping along significant portions of the coast (Tillamook, Clatsop, and Lincoln Counties, along with a portion of Curry County coastline). These hazard studies may eventually be used by the local jurisdictions to better manage new development along the coastline. You can find some of these studies at the DOGAMI website.

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development's (DLCD) Natural Hazards website includes extensive information on coastal erosion and coastal hazards, including Oregon's coastal erosion policies and publications relevant to coastal erosion in Oregon.

Recognizing problems with the continued reliance on site-specific decision-making, and the benefits of area-wide management OCMP developed a guide to Littoral Cell Management Planning along the Oregon Coast. This document describes how the concept of special area management planning can be applied to the reduction of risk to new and existing development from chronic coastal natural hazards. A littoral cell management plan is a comprehensive, integrated, area-wide hazards management strategy unique to different physical and social settings found along the Oregon coast. It is focused on the reduction of risk to new and existing oceanfront development from chronic coastal natural hazards. A littoral cell management plan should include: littoral cell inventories, a chronic hazards management strategy, and implementing mechanisms. The plans are built as map and inventory projects using Geographic Information System (GIS) software.

The Oregon Coastal Management Program partnered with Oregon Sea Grant to create Living on the Edge, Building and Buying Property on the Oregon Coast. The 25-minute DVD is intended to influence the behavior of prospective coastal property buyers and builders by giving them a "reality check" on the unique risks that come with developing along the ocean shore, and explaining the steps that should be taken to avoid problems. More information on the DVD can be obtained by contacting Steve Williams at (541) 563-5324.

Climate Change Adaptation


Stretching nearly 360 miles, Oregon’s coastline is susceptible to severe coastal storms, erosion events, and sea-level rise. Although there are some areas where sand is accreting, the subsiding/eroding north coast faces an especially high risk of inundation as exacerbated by global climate change. These issues, along with Oregon’s dynamic coastal zone in general, has forced the state to carefully consider coastal planning and hazard mitigation.

Oregon has proved a leader in the realm of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Openly embracing the issue of climate change, the State is actively working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Oregon benefits from a highly centralized climate change network at the state level, providing an efficient mechanism by which to address mitigation and adaptation measures. Educational and outreach tools concerning climate change and its associated impacts abound, and are easily accessible to both the general public and policy makers. Especially in the past decade, the state has compiled a wealth of coastal erosion data, mapping, and informational tools. The highly advanced LiDAR elevation mapping tool is currently being employed throughout the coastal region, and is being used as part of local adaptation planning. In response to its rapidly eroding coastline, the town of Neskowin has also embarked on a pilot, local adaptation initiative.

Despite the numerous adaptation guidance documents and strategies recognizing the implications of climate change for coastal communities, the State lacks strict coastal development, rebuilding, and/or siting standards. Currently there are no mandated statewide setbacks, nor is there a strong movement towards managed retreat. Coastal management strategies in the past have allowed extensive stretches of shoreline to be protected, especially in areas where private development prevails. In contrast to many coastal states, Oregon already has a large source of coastal data and information, as years of coastal and erosion mapping have provided the state with an especially comprehensive set of planning tools. Unfortunately little of this information is being actively used in local coastal planning, with both the state and local communities remaining in caught in the formalities of creating adaptation plans and strategies. It is hoped that in the near future Oregon will be able to implement a more comprehensive and straightforward statewide strategy to adapt to climate change. As a part of this future outlook, sea-level rise inundation modeling should be incorporated into state and local plans, and steps towards proactive beach management should be pursued.

Climate Change

As with the other western coastal states, Oregon has adopted a strong climate change mitigation and adaptation policy. The State fully embraces the science behind climate change, and in recent years, has actively supported the burgeoning realms of climate change research and discussion. To highlight every detail of Oregon’s climate change mitigation strategies is beyond the scope of this report, yet below is a summary of important points, key documents, and lead advisory/workgroups. For more information relating to Oregon’s climate change mitigation follow the links below.

In response to increased global greenhouse gas emissions, The Governor of Oregon appointed the Governor’s Advisory Group on Global Warming in 2004. Adopting the mindset that “global warming is not just another environmental issue” the Advisory Group on Global Warming presented its final Climate Action Plan to Governor Kulongoski in 2005. Titled Oregon Strategy for Greenhouse Gas Reductions, the Advisory Group’s report proposed 60 state-level initiatives designed to first halt, and subsequently reduce, Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007 the Advisory Group’s proposed reduction goals were adopted by Legislature. A more recent document is Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction in Oregon (December 2014).

In May 2006, Governor Ted Kulongoski established the Governor’s Climate Change Integration Group (CCIG). Created in order to continue and expand on the work of the Global Warming Advisory Group, the CCIG was charged with developing a climate change preparation and adaptation strategy for Oregon. The CCIG is also responsible for implementing and monitoring mitigation measures proposed in 2004, as well as serving as a clearing house for Oregon climate change information. The CCIG published its final report, A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change, in January 2008. The report acts as a State Adaptation Plan, thus proposing the state take steps towards developing a framework to assist individuals, businesses, and governments to incorporate climate change into their planning processes.

In 2007 House Bill 3542 created the Oregon Global Warming Commission, which is responsible for recommending ways to coordinate state and local efforts to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals set forth in the 2004 Strategy document. The Commission plays an integral role in Oregon’s climate change strategy, and provides objective analysis concerning the consistency of policy and initiatives with Oregon’s climate change goals. The Commission’s 2009 Report states that Oregon is on track to meet its first goal of arresting and reversing its historical trend of increased yearly emissions by 2010. The Commission continues and expands upon the work of the 2004 Governor’s Advisory Group on Global Warming, the Carbon Allocation Task Force, the Governor’s Vehicle Emissions Workgroup, and the Climate Change Integration Group to meet the state’s policy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to specific reduction goals. Oregon is also currently investing in numerous alternative energy programs (including wind farms and solar power), promoting the use of biofuels, and embarking on numerous energy reduction strategies. More.

The State government maintains a comprehensive climate change website. The site extensively details the science behind climate change, in addition to providing a wealth of information concerning specific Oregon initiatives and actions. The website also provides numerous educational and outreach tools, as well as what climate change means to Oregon.

The Oregon Global Warming Commission’s website also provides exceedingly detailed climate change information, outreach materials, and updates on Oregon’s climate change initiatives.

On September 18, 2006, the Governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced the West Coast Ocean Partnership. The Partnership launched a proactive regional collaboration to protect and manage the ocean and coastal resources along the entire West Coast. In collaboration with the federal government, the West Coast states will focus initial efforts on a West Coast-wide assessment of shoreline changes and anticipated impacts to coastal areas and communities due to climate change over the next several decades, and work together to develop actions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change and related coastal hazards. One of the major tasks identified will focus on the issue of global and local sea level rise and the development of adaptation strategies to address impacts from sea level rise, guidance for coastal adaptation planning, and identification of information and research need for coastal adaptation.


Oregon possesses a considerable number of research projects, policy initiatives, technical assistance materials, extensive coastal and erosion mapping, and data and information system elements on coastal hazards. Much of this information is already available and directly applicable to climate change adaptation efforts along the Oregon Coast. The Oregon Coastal Management Program, member agencies, and Oregon Sea Grant have been responsible for compiling a large majority of this material. Despite this aggressive approach to climate change adaptation research, along with recently published adaptation strategies and guidance documents, the state has few actual adaptation policies. Currently Oregon does not have mandatory statewide setbacks, nor has it developed a comprehensive policy of managed retreat. As the siting of new development is regulated at the local level, several coastal counties and cities are employing both fixed and floating setbacks, many of which are based on site-specific geotechnical reports. Shoreline armoring is also allowed where it is “deemed necessary”, with significant stretches of shoreline already armored, particularly in north Lincoln County, and at Neskowin, Rockaway Beach, and Cannon Beach In recent years the OCMP has encouraged the siting of new development away from hazardous areas.

Oregon openly recognizes the severity of future climate change impacts on the coastal zone. The state’s climate change website notes:

“A rise in sea level could threaten beaches, sandy bluffs and coastal wetlands. Coast towns could experience more flooding, causing increased damage to roads, buildings, bridges and water and sewer systems”.

Released in January 2005 by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Ocean Shore Management Plan represented the State’s first comprehensive coastal management plan. The Plan set forth the following goals:

1. Strike a balance between recreation and protecting resources
2. Provide for the public’s enjoyment and understanding of the beaches
3. Collaborate with both local communities and beachgoers at large

Under the sub-heading Scenic Resources and Settings, the Plan acknowledges the negative impacts of coastal development, especially when combined with coastal erosion. While the Plan does advocate the creation and use of development standards to protect the scenic value of beachside properties, it fails to address either sea-level rise or climate change. On the other hand, studies on the effects of shoreline hardening are also being promoted. Where cost effective, the Plan proposes experimentation with beach nourishment projects in areas where beach erosion is a critical problem.

As mentioned previously, in January 2008, the Governor’s Climate Change Integration Group (CCIG) responded to growing concerns relating to climate change in Oregon by publishing A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change. Recognizing the significant effects climate change will have on Oregonians, the report set forth ten key recommendations to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for forthcoming climate change impacts. The report also highlighted the importance of incorporating climate change into planning processes, both at state and local levels.

Of the ten key recommendations, four have direct bearing on coastal strategy, including immediate response to climate change, determining how climate change will affect different regions of the state, assisting institutions and individuals in responding to climate change, and transforming the planning process to deal with climate change.

The report dedicates an entire section to Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which centers on 4 main elements:

1. Developing tools to increase community resiliency, including public outreach, land use planning tools, legal issues, framework for retreat, and collaboration and coordination among stakeholders and governing agencies
2. Data and information delivery: estimates of effects/costs, decision support tools
3. Resources for local capacity: technical assistance, grants for local planning
4. Measuring progress

The Coastal Adaptation Strategy section aims to provide a framework for planners to deal with the effects of climate change on Oregon’s coast. Importantly, it also suggests that local governments prepare adaptation plans by 2015 that account for climate change impacts on property, infrastructure, habitats, and resources. The strategy also supports the formation of a Coastal Climate Change Coordinating Committee facilitated by Oregon’s Coastal Management Program and as a part of the state’s Global Warming Commission.

Appendix 6: An Informal Survey of Coastal Local Government Officials on Needs Related to Climate Change focused on what coastal cities and counties required from state and federal agencies in order to better respond to climate change. The majority of responses indicated a specific need for some type of overarching federal or state action. The following 6 needs were also identified by coastal managers:

1. Data and information to better understand or predict the likely effects of climate change on coastal communities are needed.
2. Guidance: Materials to assess or improve local governments’ ability to respond to climate change effects
3. Leadership: Political leadership to support local initiatives is needed.
4. Funding to assess vulnerability, develop adaptation plans/implement adaptation measures
5. Outreach: Informational materials for the general public and elected officials about climate change and the need for action
6. Infrastructure: Structural measures are needed to mitigate climate change effects on coastal communities

In October 2007, the OCMP held a workshop to stimulate dialogue about preparation and adaptation for coastal community local government officials. Information presented in the workshop provided useful insight into the range of opinions and interests in preparation and adaptation strategies at the current time (see Appendix 6 in the Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change).

Climate Ready Communities, A Strategy for Adapting to Impacts of Climate Change on the Oregon Coast represents one of Oregon’s most important climate change adaptation documents. Published by the OCMP in January 2009, the report provides a framework for the preparation and implementation of local adaptation plans, drawing largely from the CCIG’s 2008 recommendations and objectives. The report openly acknowledges that climate change will affect Oregon’s coastal environment and communities, and highlights the importance of recognition of these impacts by both landowners and policy makers. The report also provides an overview of the key physical changes expected to take place within the next few decades, as well as the effects of climate change on coastal communities, ecosystems, and natural coastal systems. The goal is resilient, Climate-Ready Coastal Communities.

Due to the unique geologic setting of each coastal community, it is likely that impacts will vary by location, time, and place. Despite these unknowns, the report stresses the need for immediate action, stating that the “choices of today have consequences in the future." In recognizing this pressing need, the report draws attention to two major obstacles hampering the adoption of a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy: (1) Lack of funding at both the state and local level to develop, obtain, and apply specific technical information and involve the public in climate change adaptation; (2) Lack of specific data for each community to determine the variance in vulnerability, assess risks of potential impacts, and monitor changes over time.

The report’s Adaptation Strategy frames the basic steps needed to prepare adaptation plans and implement them over time. Here the report references CCIG’s A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change and includes many of its same recommendations. Specifically, the Coastal Adaptation Strategy proposes the following objective:

To provide a framework for coordinated action between coastal local governments, state agencies, the public, and stakeholders to identify, assess, and plan for effects of climate change on the Oregon coast.

In order to meet this objective, the report provides the following guidelines:

1. Local coastal governments prepare adaptation plans by 2015 to account for effects of climate change on property, infrastructure, habitats, and resources.
2. Ensure that public infrastructure and/or investments of the State are in coordination with local government climate change adaptation plans. With regards to local adaptation plans and community resilience, the following outline should be employed:
1. Identify vulnerability,
2. Assess risks,
3. Adopt appropriate response measures.

Finally, the report suggests formation of a Coastal Climate Change Coordinating Committee under the state Global Warming Commission, and facilitated by the Oregon Coastal Management Program.

Beginning in late 2009, the Oregon Coastal Management Program began developing tools for local governments and other stakeholders in coastal communities to help them identify critical infrastructure, like dikes and levees, vulnerable to sea level rise and other coastal hazards. These tools will also be used to identify areas where estuarine wetland restoration would be the most effective to prepare for sea level rise. It is expected that data and more information from this project will be made available on Oregon’s Coastal Atlas by summer 2011.

On December 1, 2010 the State of Oregon released The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework, which was developed in partnership with the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and participating state agencies and organizations within the Oregon University System. The framework identifies expected climate-related risks, short-term priority actions, and several steps Oregonians might take to improve the state’s ability to adapt to climate change. The report will be presented in a series of events, which began with the Oregon Outdoor Recreation Council on December 9, 2010. The framework report and a summary of the key findings and recommendations are available on the Department of Land Conservation and Development’s website.

Case Study Initiatives

Pilot adaptation planning is currently underway in the small coastal city of Neskowin, located in Tillamook County. Severe coastal erosion events, especially the 1997-1998 El Nino winter, have begun to seriously threaten the town’s coastal infrastructure. In response to the events, Neskowin formed the Neskowin Coastal Hazards Committee in October 2009. Using hazards assessment and mapping as provided by DOGAMI, along with a slew of planning support tools by the Coastal Program and Oregon Sea Grant, the city is exploring ways to plan for and adapt to the potential future changes in its coastal area. Listed below are presentations given in April 2010 regarding ongoing shoreline alteration and long term planning discussions for Neskowin and Tillamook County areas:

The above work led to the Tillamook County Coastal Futures Project. Project Objectives are to:

  • Build a coastal ‘Knowledge to Action Network’ consisting of a collaborative team of stakeholders, researchers, and outreach specialists who will co-produce knowledge to inform climate-resilient strategies in coastal Tillamook county.
  • Develop an integrated methodology for projecting the evolving probability of coastal flooding and erosion, through time along the PNW coast, explicitly accounting for climate controls on the various processes relevant to coastal hazards.
  • Develop the information and tools necessary to enable PNW stakeholders to envision future scenarios, assess impacts and associated evolving community and ecosystem vulnerability, and initiate adaptation strategies over the next several decades in the context of sea level rise and changing storminess.

Progress to date (2013-2014) is listed on the Coastal Futures Project website, including links to several presentations.

In September 2016 the Coastal States Organization highlighted the Neskowin Coastal Erosion Adaptation Planning Effort as "a great example of collaboration and determination related to addressing increasing coastal erosion. It represents a community who needed help but was also willing to roll up its sleeves and go to work. The effort exemplifies effective “ground up” teamwork and solid relationship building across organizations."

Coastal climate change adaptation in the form of managed retreat was implemented in 2016 for a residential property owner whose home was dangling precariously over a bluff at Lighthouse Beach. Success for the all interested parties began in June 2016 when the house was picked up and moved 50 feet back from the cliff, accommodating both a remodel to boost the property value as well as protecting the beach and public safety. Read more.

Coastal Hazard Mitigation

Oregon’s extensive hazard mitigation guidebooks, tools, regulations, and outreach materials can also be indirectly applied to climate change adaptation. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development's (DLCD) Natural Hazards website includes extensive information on coastal erosion and coastal hazards, including Oregon's coastal erosion policies and publications relevant to coastal erosion in Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Geology (DOGAMI) has conducted hazard zone mapping along significant portions of the coast (Tillamook, Clatsop, Lincoln County, along with a portion of Curry County coastline). These hazard studies could be used in the future by local jurisdictions to better manage new development along the coastline. You can find some of these studies on the DOGAMI website.

Statewide Planning Goal 17 - Coastal Shorelands and Goal 18 - Beaches and Dunes guide coastal hazard planning. These goals require local governments to identify and plan for the dynamic and potentially hazardous nature of the coastline. Goal 17 requires local governments to delineate a Coastal Shoreland planning area that includes lands subject to ocean flooding and within 100' of the ocean shore or within 50' of an estuary or coastal lake. Goal 18 includes specific provisions for the use of shoreline protective structures, and also requires local governments to inventory beaches and dunes, describing their stability, movement, and hazards in the process. Taking these inventories into account, local governments must then apply appropriate beach and dune policies for use. Every city/county on the coast has a state-approved comprehensive land use plan.

A more detailed summary of these Goals can be found here.

The Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan: Coastal Erosion Chapter characterizes Oregon’s coastal erosion hazards. The Chapter describes current state programs and strategies working to reduce hazard vulnerability, and also highlights successful past mitigation measures. Short and long-term state actions for future hazard mitigation are proposed.

Oregon has developed a number of additional hazard and risk assessments and guidelines, including Planning for Natural Hazards: Oregon Technical Resource Guide and Oregon Regional Risk Assessment. The Technical Resource serves to guide Oregon communities to state, federal and Internet resources, as well as recommended publications for planning for seismic hazards. The Risk Assessment document provides a locally appropriate analysis of risk in eight different regions. Regional profiles and maps are included. Oregon’s Region Hazards Viewer presents perceived vulnerability per hazard for each county in Oregon and allows communities and state to compare the vulnerabilities of hazards across regions.

The Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience (OPDR) is a collaborative group of various stakeholders whose main goal is to create a “disaster resilient state” in the face of natural hazards. Since 2000, OPDR has been leading a statewide planning initiative to build capacity for the development of comprehensive natural hazard mitigation plans and projects to help communities to deal with natural disasters, including climate change and coastal erosion. Currently the link to climate change is being updated on the website. The website also broadly identifies and describes the coastal erosion hazard that Oregon faces (see here), and provides links to assessment tools, resources, and previous mitigation plans that have been developed to identify, profile, and assess the vulnerability and risk from coastal erosion events in Oregon.

Additional Initiatives

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) is conducting an ocean shore monitoring project that establishes a series of benchmarks for selected ocean beaches and allows for monitoring changes in beach morphology. This project will allow monitoring of erosion and inundation patterns that may be exacerbated by sea level rise. The following is a short summary of DOGAMI’s shoreline initiatives that could relate to coastal erosion and sea-level rise. For more information see DOGAMI’s website.

Due to the severe coastal storms of the 1997-1998 El Nino winter, DOGAMI undertook the Oregon Beach and Shoreline Mapping and Analysis Program (OBSMP) to document the spatial variability of beach change at various time-scales. The broad purpose of this work is to provide high-quality scientific information concerning Oregon’s changing coast, and will represent an important planning tool for coastal managers and community planners. One of the project’s main goals is to identify minimum and maximum potential of coastal change erosion distances for bluff and dune-backed shorelines over the next 60-100 years. A total of 30 selected communities represent the coastline of interest and at risk, with 4 scenario maps already have been completed for 21 communities. As of 2006, DOGAMI had mapped nearly 70% of the Oregon Coast.

The State is also employing the use of LiDAR mapping. Three different USGS LIDAR surveys were undertaken in 1997, 1998 and 2002 to see how much beach morphology has changed over time. LiDAR mapping is planned for the entire coast. The next step will be for the State, and DOGAMI, to undertake extensive sea-level rise inundation mapping along the coast. These rates could then be incorporated into statewide and local management plans.

Launched in 2001, the Coastal Atlas website serves as an interactive, searchable, downloadable archive of geo-spatial data that includes mapping and decision support tools. The Atlas also provides information on each of Oregon’s 22 littoral cells, including physical characteristics, percentage of hardening structure, type of land use/development, hazards, and both historic and present day aerial photos. The Atlas is an extremely comprehensive and well developed portal for information and discussion concerning a wide variety of coastal issues, including coastal erosion, sea-level rise, climate change, and other coastal hazards. The Atlas thus also represents an exemplary educational outreach tool, and presents clear explanations of coastal dynamics and natural processes.

Littoral Cell Management Plans have been developed for Newport, Netarts/Oceanside, and Bandon Areas. These Plans represent comprehensive hazards management strategies focused on reducing risk of coastal hazards to new and existing oceanfront development. Plans typically include a chronic hazard management strategy, littoral cell inventory, and implementing mechanisms. The Plans are built as map and inventory projects using GIS. More information can be found here.

Five new, short videos about climate change at the Oregon coast produced by Oregon Sea Grant respond to the concerns of coastal residents. Those concerns, expressed through a survey of 300 coastal Oregonians, frame the topics of the videos: Introduction to Oregon Coast Climate Change, Predicting the Climate, Shoreline Effects of Climate Change, Broader Coastal and Ocean Effects, and What is Government Doing?. The complete video Preparing for Coastal Climate Change: What Oregonians Are Asking won a Gold Award in the Video/Educational category of the 2011 Hermes Creative Awards.

Oregon Sea Grant has produced a 3-minute video and a brochure about tsunami preparedness called Three Things You Need to Know, as well as a 14-minute video about tsunami preparedness called Reaching Higher Ground. In conjunction with OCMP, Oregon Sea Grant also created a 25-min long DVD Living on the Edge, Building and Buying Property on the Oregon Coast.

Oregon Sea Grant has also produced a set of three short videos that highlight some critical issues related to climate change at the Oregon coast. Those issues are flagged by the video titles:

and the overarching goal of having

The videos, intended primarily for those involved in or concerned about the issues that adapting to climate change presents for coastal areas, were produced by Oregon Sea Grant with the cooperation of a range of climate researchers and coastal professionals who are interviewed on camera. The themes of the videos emerged from surveys, interviews, and workshops conducted by Sea Grant and partners in the last few years.

In 2015 Meg Gardner, a NOAA Coastal Fellow working with Oregon Coastal Management Program and Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, produced a poster Oregon's Eroding Coastline: Seeking Solutions in the Face of a Changing Climate. The poster illustrates a logical process to address coastal erosion hazards and is intended to assist in initiating an informed conversation on potential policy changes to manage these hazards.

Meg Gardner also produced a report Analysis of Shoreline Armoring & Erosion Policies Along the Oregon Coast. The report analyzes and integrates current public policy regarding coastal erosion and shoreline armoring with the latest relevant geospatial and natural science information (including predicted impacts of climate change), in order to understand the most vulnerable coastal areas. Policy ideas are also explored, from changing statewide policy related to beachfront protective structure permitting and eligibility requirements, to adopting new local land-use policies to regulate development in coastal hazard zones. Although state policies are generally regarded as effective at regulating shoreline armoring equitably and broadly along the coast, there may be instances where local government policy changes or additions may be a more effective way to try to address some of the current policy challenges related to shoreline armoring and coastal erosion risks. Local efforts can be tailored to each jurisdiction and its unique geography and social context, and local efforts can be more restrictive than statewide policies. Several local policy ideas are explored in the Policy Ideas section of this report.

Additional Information Sources


Laren Woolley
Coastal Shores Specialist
Oregon Dept. of Land Conservation and Development
Ocean-Coastal Management Program
810 SW Alder Street, Suite B
Newport, Oregon 97365
Office: (541) 574-0811 | Cell: (541) 514-0091

Chris Shirley
Natural Hazards & Floodplains Specialist
Department of Land Conservation and Development
635 Capitol St. NE, Suite 150
Salem, OR, 97301-2540
Phone: 503-373-0050 x250
FAX: 503-378-6033

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