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Adapting to Rising Sea Levels

Adapting to Rising Sea Levels discusses the ways in which the structure of the United States’ legal system shapes adaptation. Written to be accessible to a broad audience, the book provides the necessary background on the science of sea level rise and the basic legal principles that animate decision-making in the coastal zone, including the takings doctrine. The book explores the role of federal flood insurance and disaster relief in shaping adaptation decisions, presents case studies from states, and concludes with a high level overview of some of the unique challenges faced by corporations operating in the coastal zone.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9

Chapter 1

 

What is Relative Sea Level Rise?

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 1_What is relative sea level rise

 

Figure 1
Global Distribution of Tide Gauges

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 1

Source: Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS)

 

Figure 2   
Satellite Altimetry

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 2

Figure 3
Satellite Altimetry Map of Sea Level Rise Differences

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 3

Reproduced with permission of Annual Review of Marine Science, Volume 2 © 2010 by Annual Reviews, http:// www. annual reviews. org

 

Figure 4 
Explanation of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Sea Surface Height

Thermohaline circulation is the circulation of ocean waters that is driven by differences in temperature and salinity. In the North Atlantic Ocean, the formation of sea ice causes the surrounding water to become colder and saltier, increasing its density. This denser water sinks becoming part of the deep ocean currents that are sometimes referred to as the “ocean conveyor belt.”

 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 4

 

Figure 5
Explanation of Impact of North Atlantic Oscillation on Landfalling Hurricanes

The North Atlantic Oscillation (“NAO”) is a large-scale atmospheric circulation feature that is characterized by positive and negative phases based on the location of two pressure centers over the North Atlantic. The NAO, which can vary considerably both seasonally or multi-year time scales impacts storm tracks including those of hurricanes. Positive phases of the NAO will cause hurricanes to track closer to the U.S. East coast, while negative phases will tend to steer hurricanes out to sea.

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 5

Source: ©2017 Climatological Consulting Corporation, http://www.ccc-weather.com

 

 

Figure 6
Map of Projected Sea Level Rise on the Texas Coast

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 6_1

 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 6_2

 

Figure 7
Map of Projected Sea Level Rise on the North Carolina Coast

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 7_1

 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 7_2

 

Figure 8
Map of Projected Sea Level Rise in San Francisco Bay

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 8_1

 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 8_2

Chapter 2

Figure 9
Ecological Impacts of Seawalls

In the absence of structures that prevent landward movement (e.g., seawalls, coastal 
roads), coastal wetlands and other important habitats will move landward in response to 
rising sea levels to maintain their position relative to the water. However, when seawalls or 
other hardened structures are built to protect coastal property, they prevent this landward 
movement and coastal habitats will ultimately be drowned by rising sea levels.

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 9

 

Figure 10 
Erosion, Beach Nourishment and Economic Benefits

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 10

Figure 11 
Coastal Setbacks

Coastal setbacks are often measured with respect to either the mean high tide line or the 
first line of vegetation, allowing them to be dynamic over time.

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 11

Chapter 3

 

Figure 12
Spatial and Temporal Correlation of Flood Risks

In a flood, if one house in the neighborhood floods, all of the others will too. This is different from a fire, where if one house burns down others might not.

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 12

 

What Is the "Built Environment"?

When considering resilience of a coastal community to climate changes, there are two different types of resilience to consider: social and ecological. As explained in Chapter 2, social resilience can be enhanced at the expense of ecological resilience (e.g., by building seawalls) or by using natural systems to protect coastal communities (e.g., through wetland restoration and setbacks). In evaluating adaptation options, it can be helpful to distinguish between the systems we are trying to protect. Therefore the “built environment” is a term that is useful to distinguish human development, including homes, roads, and coastal infrastructure, from coastal ecosystems, such as sandy beaches and wetlands.

Adapting to rising sea levels_Built Environment
This distinction is particularly important when considering insurance as an adaptation strategy. Insurance covers physical structures that are part of the built environment and is a mechanism to allow physical structures to be restored to their pre- storm condition. Because insurance does not cover coastal ecosystems, it can facilitate rebuilding at the expense of these systems that would otherwise provide natural hazard protection in future events.

 

Figure 13 
Flood Hazard Mapping

FEMA Flood Risk maps classify communities into zones based on flood risk. In the coastal zone the primary zones are: 
Zone A: The 100- year flood plan (1% annual flood risk) 
Zone V: The 100- year flood plan with additional hazards from storm waves 
Zone VE: The V zone with additional risk from erosion 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 13

Flood Risk Information Resources from FEMA

To help property owners understand the flood risks to which they are exposed, FEMA has created an extensive set of resources at its public outreach website, floodsmart.gov. The website provides information on flood risks, flood safety, and the availability of flood insurance policies under the NFIP.

FEMA also maintains the Map Service Center, an official online public resource for flood mapping. Through the Map Service Center’s online tools, property owners can enter their addresses and explore their flood risk.

Flood risk information resources from FEMA

Chapter 4

 

Figure 14 
Key Coastal Boundary Lines

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 14

Figure 15
Illinois Central

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 15

Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-DIG-det-4a06085

 

Figure 16 
Accretion and Erosion

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 16

 

Figure 17 
Avulsion

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 17

Figure 18
Grand Central Station, New York

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 18

 

Figure 19 
Explanation of the Lucas Properties

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 19

Photo of the developed lot taken in 2000.
Source: William Fischel, A Photographic Update on Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council: A Photographic Essay, http:// www.dartmouth. edu/ ~wfischel/ lucasupdate.html.

 

Figure 20
Map Showing the Palazzolo Property

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 20

Source: Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council

 

Figure 21 
Explanation of the Nollan case

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 21

Figure 22 
Explanation of the Dolan case

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 22

Figure 23 
The Erosion Control Line

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 23

Chapter 5

 

Figure 24
BCDC Sea Level Rise Map

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 24

Source: San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, www.bcdc.ca.gov/

 

Figure 25 
Bluff Undercutting Erosion

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 25

Figure 26
The Pleasure Point Seawall Under Construction in 2009 and in 2014 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 26a

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 26b

 

Figure 27
Capitola Sea Cave

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 27

Source: Chad Nelsen, Surfrider Foundation

 

Figure 28
Land's End

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 28

© 2002– 2015 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.californiacoastline.org

 

Figure 29 
Scope of BCDC Jurisdiction

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 29

Figure 30
South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 30

Source: South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project

 

Figure 31 
The Saltworks Site

Click here to view

 

Chapter 6

 

Figure 32 
The North Carolina Coast

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 32

Source: http:// www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/ pdfcharts/

 

 

Figure 33 
Littoral Transport

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 33

 

Figure 34
Beach Bulldozing

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 34

Source: North Carolina Coastal Federation

 

Figure 35 
Sandbag Placement Along the North Carolina Coast

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 35

Source: North Carolina Division of Coastal Management

 

Figure 36 
Terminal Groins

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 36

Figure 37 
The Riggings Complex

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 37

Figure 38
Kure Beach Coastline

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 38

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers



Figure 40 
Living Shorelines

Living shorelines focus on using natural littoral landscapes as the border between land and sea. In contrast to seawalls (bottom), the living shoreline will migrate landward as sea levels rise.

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 40

 

Figure 41 
Example of Living Shoreline and Setback at River Dunes

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 41

 

Chapter 7

 

Figure 42 
Map of Eroding Areas on the Texas Coast

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 42

Source: Texas General Land Office, Coastal Erosion Response & Planning Act: A Report to the 84th Texas Legislature (2015), http:// www.glo.texas.gov/ coast/ coastal- management/ forms/ files/ CEPRA- Report-2015.pdf

 

The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Adapting to rising sea levels_Galveston Hurricane 1900

 

Surfsde Beach 

Adapting to rising sea levels_TX GLO_1

Adapting to rising sea levels_TX GLO_2

Source: Texas General Land Office

 

Figure 43 
Rebuilding a Groin in Front of the Galveston Seawall

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 43

 

Figure 44
Galveston Seawall in 2016

Babe’s Beach in front of the Galveston Seawall in 2016 after beach nourishment. The nourishment project established a beach along this stretch of the seawall for the first time in nearly 20 years. Photo Credit: Ellis Pickett

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 44

 

Figure 45 
The Severance Properties

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 45a

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 45b

 

Figure 46
Rebuilding under Section 15.13 of the Beach and Dune Rules

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 46

Figure 47 
Application of the Doctrine of Avulsion after Severance

 

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 47

 

Figure 48 
Role of Base Flood Elevation and Army Corps Jurisdiction in Shaping Development

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 48

 

 

John Mecom’s Flamingo Isles

Adapting to rising sea levels_John Mecom's Flamingo Isles

 

Figure 49 

Click here to view

Overview of Harborwalk Showing Infeasibility of Living Shorelines Given the Existing Canal and Lot Structure

 

Figure 50 
Bulkheads at Harborwalk

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 50

Figure 51 
Coastal Development That Is a Danger to Public Health and Safety

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 51

Chapter 9

 

Figure 52 
CERCLA Remedies That May Be Subject to Five- Year Reviews

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 52

Figure 53 
Submergence of an Upland Cap Due to Sea Level Rise

Adapting to rising sea levels_Figure 53