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

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Georgia Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access67
Water Quality66
Beach Erosion4-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures4 6
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas35
Website6-

Introduction

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. Evaluation of this indicator brings attention to the states that are taking proactive roles in natural beach preservation and natural 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? If a state can answer 'yes' to most of these questions then its rank is high and 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 Georgia'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

The Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act O.C.G.A. 12-7-1 requires that each county or municipality adopt a comprehensive ordinance establishing procedures governing land-disturbing activities based on the minimum requirements established by the Act. The Erosion and Sedimentation Act is administered by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and by local governments. Permits are required for specified "land-disturbing activities," including the construction or modification of manufacturing facilities, construction activities, certain activities associated with transportation facilities, activities on marsh hammocks, etc. With certain constraints, permitting authority can be delegated to local governments.

One provision of the Erosion and Sedimentation Act requires that land-disturbing activities shall not be conducted within 25 feet of the banks of any State waters unless a variance is granted (O.C.G.A. 12-7-6-(15)). Construction of single family residences under contract with the owner are exempt from the permit requirement but are still required to meet the standards of the Act (O.C.G.A. 12-7-17-(4)). Large development projects, both residential and commercial, must obtain a permit and meet the requirements of the Act. According to the Georgia Coastal Management Act, any permits or variances issued under the Erosion and Sedimentation Act must be consistent with the Georgia Coastal Management Program. Permits within the jurisdiction of the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act and the Shore Protection Act can include requirements that certain minimum water quality standards be met as a condition of the permit. The 25-foot buffer was upheld in a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals in 2014. More on this.

In early 2017 a new version of the 38-year-old Shore Protection Act passed the Georgia House. It replaces what sponsor Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, calls an “archaic” method of determining the landward extent of the state’s regulatory reach at the shorefront. The proposed new bill draws a setback line on private property 25 feet back from the most landward of either the ordinary high water mark; the most landward toe of a sand dune or the ordinary high-water mark; or the crest of shoreline stabilization structure, such as a sea wall. On state land, the line is drawn 100 feet from the ordinary high water mark. An amendment that redefined sand dunes was removed after environmentalists argued it weakened protections. Many coastal scientists consider the 25-foot setback line insufficient based on coastal erosion data and in comparison to policies of other coastal states such as North Carolina. More on this. In March 2017 this legislation was tabled until next year.

In February 2007 the Board of Natural Resources adopted amendments to the Coastal Marshlands Protection Rules to impose marshlands buffer, stormwater management, and impervious cover standards to protect this vital area of the State from non-point source pollution. The rule took effect in late March 2007 and established regulations that apply to the upland component of a project requiring a Coastal Marshlands Protection Act permit. The rules apply primarily to commercial, community and public projects such as marinas, community docks, fishing piers, boat ramps, and bridges that require a Coastal Marshlands Protection Act permit. The rules do not apply to private residential docks not requiring a Coastal Marshlands Protection Act permit, or marshfront property that does not have a project requiring a Coastal Marshlands Protection Act permit. The rule establishes a 50-foot marshlands buffer applicable to the upland component of the project, defines how to measure that buffer, and requires that the buffer remain in an undisturbed, naturally vegetated condition. Exceptions are provided for temporary construction and maintenance, permanent structures essential for the function or permanent access to the marsh component of the project, landscaping to enhance stormwater management, and pedestrian access for passive recreation.

It is a goal of the Coastal Management Program to “Develop and institute a comprehensive erosion policy that identifies critical erosion areas, evaluates the long-term costs and benefits of erosion control techniques, seeks to minimize the effects on natural systems (both biological and physical), and avoids damage to life and property.”

It is an objective of the Coastal Management Program to “Provide a coastal zone in which the integrity and functioning of the sand-sharing system is maintained.”

Georgia Department of Resources Coastal Management Division has information on coastal hazards on their website. The Georgia Coastal Management Program (GCMP) has established Specialty Areas of study, which were developed based on regional and national priorities. One Specialty Area that has been developed is Coastal Hazards including Climate Change/Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Georgia, which will address many of the needs in this category. Since this change, staff has submitted several grant applications for climate related projects, sits on several climate change steering committees at a local, state and national levels including the Governors’ South Atlantic Alliance. The Coastal Incentive Grant program has helped the GCMP in funding coastal hazard grants that have increased knowledge and resources in the following areas:


Georgia Conservancy's Design + Research Blueprints project concentrates on sea level rise challenges and adaptation opportunities for five communities along the Georgia coast: City of Savannah, Tybee Island, City of Darien, City of Brunswick, and City of St. Marys. These locations were selected because of their various geographic positions along the coast, as well as their different challenges and opportunities. A Blueprints team, composed of Blueprints staff, Professor Richard Dagenhart, Dr. Tom Debo and graduate students in a Georgia Tech College of Architecture Design + Research Studio spent almost six months preparing this report. The team made site visits, interviewed government officials, residents and business owners, collected data and reviewed other communities’ planning and design strategies for sea level rise. The studio was multidisciplinary, including students in the Master of Science in Urban Design, Master of Architecture and Master of City and Regional Planning. The Studio developed alternative planning and design approaches for the five coastal communities and developed a set of draft recommendations for stakeholder consideration. These recommendations are supported by Blueprints advisors and form the basis of this report. The final output of the process is the report Retreat. Adapt. Defend. Designing Community Response to Sea Level Rise in Five Coastal Georgia Communities, which aims to educate communities across the state and to begin considering responses to climate change and sea level rise. Although these recommendations are not aimed at immediate implementation, the team hopes the design and planning proposal will draw attention the issues of sea level rise, stimulate conversations, and help begin the process of making appropriate decisions today that will guide future decision over the coming decades.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Georgia Sea Grant, and the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have teamed up to develop a plan for the city of Tybee Island to address rising sea levels. The two-year grant-funded project will prioritize and address the barrier island’s vulnerabilities in order to protect resources and counteract increased flooding — both permanent and as a result of storm surges. Potential solutions include sea walls, elevated infrastructure, beach re-nourishment, property buy-outs and new zoning ordinances that restrict development.

EPA has published a summary document Governments Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level: Georgia (2009).

NOAA's Digital Coast website has a Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer. Completed areas include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia.

Coastal Barrier Resources Act

The federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), passed in 1982, was designed to "minimize the loss of human life, wasteful expenditure of federal revenues, and the damage to fish, wildlife and other natural resources" by denying federal support for everything from sewer construction to flood insurance in undeveloped or little-developed coastal areas such as barrier islands. CBRA does not restrict development in these areas, but it indirectly discourages development by denying the use of federal funds for development projects or redevelopment after storm or flood damage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers this program, which identified 1.3 million acres of coastal land to be covered by the act. Unfortunately, pressure by property owners and developers in these areas has lead Congress to pass dozens of exemption bills which exclude certain areas from CBRA, thus thwarting the intent of the Act.

The Coastal Barrier Improvement Act (CBIA) was enacted on November 16, 1990. The CBIA resulted in reauthorization of the CBRA of 1982. The CBRA establishes the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) to protect areas such as undeveloped coastal barrier islands. There is a discussion of CBRA on NOAA's web site that concludes:

"Although the removal of federal funding assistance has discouraged development in some coastal barrier islands, development has continued in other areas despite designation as a unit of the CBRS. CBIA is not intended to prevent or regulate development in high-risk areas; rather the intent is to direct that federal dollars not be spent for development in these areas. Activities conducted in areas adjacent to CBRS units may adversely impact these sensitive areas; these activities are not regulated under CBIA. In addition, CBIA does not restrict the use of private, local, or state funding within CBRS units. Some coastal states have initiated legislation that limits state funding of certain projects."

A report released in March 2007 reviews the extent to which (1) development has occurred in CBRS units since their inclusion in the system and (2) federal financial assistance and permits have been provided to entities in CBRS units. GAO electronically mapped address data for structures within 91 randomly selected CBRS units and collected information on federal financial assistance and permits for eight federal agencies. GAO found multiple federal agencies have provided some financial assistance to property owners in CBRS units that is expressly prohibited by CBRA; some assistance allowed under CBRA; and hundreds of permits for federally regulated development activities within the unit. GAO recommended, among other things, the four agencies that provided prohibited loan guarantees or insurance policies to CBRS units first verify and then cancel those that are in violation of CBRA.

On April 7, 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released to the public its Report to Congress: John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project. The report, which was directed by the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-514), highlights the benefits of updating Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) maps with more accurate and precise digital maps to better protect people, coastal areas and natural resources. A 2016 report is now available.

FEMA has now developed a fact sheet on CBRA. The fact sheet outlines the responsibilities and restrictions that various programs within FEMA have under CBRA.


Climate Change Adaptation

Introduction

Georgia’s coastline is buffered by a network of 15 barrier islands, only four of which are developed. Although comprised of a mere 88 miles of open-ocean beaches, the extensive salt marshes lining the mainland coast create 2,300 miles of tidally influenced shoreline. These broad tidal flats are especially susceptible to sea-level rise, with nearly 1,100 square miles of Georgia coastline located below 3.5 meters in elevation. While relatively rural, the Georgia coast is home to the historic City of Savannah, and has recently been cited as the second fastest growing region of the state, behind Atlanta.

Despite the serious threat of sea-level rise to the Georgia coast, the State has done little to address either climate change mitigation or adaptation. Although recent years have seen the passage of some climate change legislation, these laws are neither comprehensive nor binding. Much of what does exist is largely decentralized, making it difficult to enforce statewide policies. In order to protect its critical coastal habitats and maintain a thriving coastal economy, Georgia would greatly benefit from the creation of a centralized climate action working group (for a good example see Alaska). Adaptation efforts by the Georgia Coastal Program have also only just begun. Although early in the planning stages, Georgia should take the opportunity now to learn from successful climate change adaptation measures already employed by other states. While some coastal development restrictions do exist, the State currently has no statewide setback, policy of managed retreat, or other comprehensive adaptation strategies. Georgia can also improve the extent of its education and outreach material, and update it to include straightforward information about climate change.

Climate Change

While Georgia has made significant strides in terms of its climate change policy and legislation in recent years, initiatives at both the state and local level have yet to be classified as high priority actions. Furthermore, these actions are largely decentralized, occurring with little coordination between agencies and levels of government. While climate change mitigation strategies exist, it is difficult to tell the State’s exact position on the topic. For example, unlike Alaska and California, the Georgia State Government does not maintain a specific climate change website. Instead, alternative and renewable energy strategies are promoted through a variety of agency websites, with none specifically acknowledging climate change. This piecemeal approach, if not remedied soon, will continue to stall Georgia’s current progress. While in recent years Georgia has implemented a few specific mitigation measures, these fall painfully short of the overarching measures necessary to truly confront climate change.

On March 1, 2006, the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) launched a process to develop Georgia’s first state energy strategy. Published December 14, 2006 by the Governor’s Energy Policy Council, the State Energy Strategy for Georgia details policy objectives and implementation strategies that address many of Georgia’s current and future energy concerns. While not intended as an adaptation document, the Strategy does acknowledge that “climate change could affect the economy through rising shoreline levels and resulting damage to coastal development”. One of the objectives will be to prepare for potential federal climate change policies by establishing current State baseline GHG emissions and protocols allowing organization to account for their reductions. It should be noted that the Strategy has yet to be recognized by the Pew Center for Global Climate Change as a formal Climate Action Plan. Georgia is also one of the only coastal states without a State Adaptation Plan.

An Executive Order issued by Governor Perdue created the State Facilities Energy Council that is charged with setting procurement requirements for state agencies and departments for the purchase of energy. As a member of the Climate Registry, Georgia is currently working on steps to update its greenhouse gas inventory. Currently eight Georgia Mayors have also signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Attended by nearly 300 delegates, the one-day public Georgia Climate Change Summit 2008 facilitated statewide dialogue on the challenges of climate change, its impacts on Georgia, and opportunities for success both now and in the future. Four different panels covered topic including: Georgia’s future climate projections, Impacts and Adaptation, Economic Risks and Opportunities, and Policy. Links to featured presentations relating to climate change and adaptation are listed below:


The Summit also highlighted how state and local governments, businesses and industries, and other leaders from the public and private sector are already reacting to the challenges and opportunities associated with climate change. See this presentation by the Conserve Georgia Campaign for more information on these programs.

In April 2008 Governor Perdue launched the Governor’s Energy Challenge, committing Georgia’s state government to energy usage reduction by 15% by 2020 over the 2007 energy levels. The Governor urged citizens, businesses, organizations, and local governments to help meet the state’s 15% reduction goal. The press release noted that leading by example, the state of Georgia will “adopt, implement, and promote energy efficiency practices…using…biofuels and bioenergy”. Launch of the Center of Innovation for Energy, the sixth addition to Georgia’s Centers of Innovation (COI) program, was also announced in 2008. The COI for Energy will focus on recruiting bioenergy companies to Georgia and providing direct assistance to existing and startup businesses in the state. There is now a Georgia Energy Challenge website.

Chatham County, one of six coastal counties, has also recently embarked on its own climate change initiative. Recognizing its vulnerability to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, the County has positioned itself as a state leader in addressing climate change issues at a local level. In October 2007, the Board of Commissioners of Chatham County passed a resolution calling for Chatham County to become the “Greenest County in Georgia." The resolution requested the Chatham Environmental Forum (CEF) to develop a county-wide plan for achieving this goal. The CEF maintains a website acknowledging climate change and its impacts, and additionally summarizes its strategic plan. In 2009 the County published A Road Map for Chatham County, which set forth a preliminary, yet proactive, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy. Although the report included information on climate change impacts and response, discussions concerning coastal hazards and weather were designated for future consideration. There is additional information on the Climate Change and Adaptation website of the Water and Natural Resources - Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Adaptation

As with State’s climate change legislation and adaptation measures, Georgia’s Coastal Management Program has been slow to acknowledge and respond to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise. Approved in 1998, the Georgia Coastal Management Program (GCMP) currently lacks both sea-level-rise policies and initiatives specific to climate change. (See The Georgia Coastal Management Act (O.C.G.A 12-5-320, et seq.) for more information about the GCMP). The Coastal Program currently remains in the very early stages of adaptation planning, yet is now looking to receive grant funding to aid in the creation of comprehensive adaptation plans.

A number of shoreline erosion studies and mapping projects have recently been completed for the Georgia coastline. Sea-level rise mapping is also currently underway. Importantly, LiDAR modeling is scheduled to be completed in the near future for all eleven coastal counties. Despite these studies, Georgia has not established statewide setbacks or developed a strategy of managed retreat, with currently the only shoreline development standard consisting of a mandatory riparian buffer zone of 25 feet. Sea-level rise projections are not likely to be incorporated into coastal development standards anytime soon. If and when climate change considerations do come into play, they will most likely be addressed in the form of guidance documents, rather than regulatory mandates (from Personal Contact with Jennifer Klein of Georgia Coastal Program Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources on July 14, 2010). It is imperative that the Coastal Program officially recognizes climate change and climate change impacts, and take concrete steps towards adoption of a comprehensive adaptation strategy. Initial actions could include creation of a single climate change website detailing the implications climate change will have on the Georgia coastline. The Coastal Program should also being to pursue adaptation policy and legislation directed specifically at the coastal zone.

Visit the Coastal Resources Division website for more information on climate change initiatives and strategies; see also Georgia Coastal Management Program: Legislative Report of Accomplishments July 2000 – June 2003. Prepared June 2003 by NOAA and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, the State of Georgia Coastal Management Program and Program Document provides a detailed overview of Georgia’s Coastal Management Program, coastal ecosystems, and coastal issues. However, no reference to climate change impacts or sea-level rise is included.

In August 2005 the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) appointed a 35-member Coastal Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CCPAC), charged with evaluated the current forces affecting the coast, options available for effectively dealing with these forces, and preferred alternatives. Thus far the CCPAC has done little to address sea-level rise or future coastal planning.

On February 11, 2005, Governor Sonny Perdue signed an Executive Order directing the DCA to complete a Coastal Comprehensive Master Development Plan by September of 2007. The Plan attempts to outline a vision for Georgia’s coastal area by promoting sustainable future development without “compromising the region’s valuable and vulnerable natural environment." Unfortunately the Final Draft, approved in 2008, lacks fundamental adaptation strategies and management options necessary for sustainable future growth.

Considered a non-binding policy document more so than a regional plan, the Plan describes Georgia’s coastal resources and explains how existing regulatory authorities will be used to meet Coastal Program objectives. The Plan does not map proposed future land uses, nor does it set forth development policies or guidelines. Although the Plan claims to focus on “long-term quality growth and development," climate change and sea-level rise, serious threats to future coastal development, are mentioned only secondarily. The Plan does state that rising sea levels will affect coastal development and flood wetland forests with salt water, yet provides no insight on adaptation measures. Under the Subsection “Intrinsic Resources: Natural” (Strategy #20) the Plan further suggests: “As tools become available, incorporate climate change impacts, including sea level rise into land management and protection plans." Despite these suggestions, there are no time lines defining specific adaptation goals, nor are recommended implementation measures included. Unfortunately, voluntary county and city compliance with the Plan also largely undermines any of its legal authority.

The DCA does employ a development review process for regional impact. Although the Coastal Program recommends minimizing development in the flood zone, this recommendation is only advisory and the department has no authority to ensure that recommendations are enacted. The DCA also has links to the Coastal Comprehensive Plan – Regional Assessment that reviews the planning issues and opportunities faced by the Coastal Area. This Regional Assessment is the product of a review of data, maps, local and regional plans, regulations, and development patterns for all of the coastal counties. This information should be utilized by both the state’s Coastal Program and local communities to develop a comprehensive coastal adaptation strategy that incorporates climate change impacts.

It is further interesting to note that the agency originally charged with administration of the Coastal Program, the Coastal Resources Division, was not responsible for creation of the Master Plan, a task falling instead to the Department of Community Affairs. In general, it appears that the DCA remains largely responsible for development planning in the coastal zone, although the region faces different development needs and priorities than elsewhere in the state. In order to most effectively address climate change impacts in the coastal zone, it is suggested that DCA and the CRD combine forces and utilize an intra-agency approach to climate change adaptation.

As part of CRD's website redesign in July 2011, a Coastal Hazards section was created. The website states:

"The GCMP has established Specialty Areas of study, which were developed based on regional and national priorities. One Specialty Area that has been developed is Coastal Hazards including Climate Change/Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Georgia, which will address many of the needs in this category. Since this change, staff has submitted several grant applications for climate related projects, sits on several climate change steering committees at a local, state and national levels including the Governors’ South Atlantic Alliance."


As part of a national effort to encourage the long-term thinking required to deal with the impacts of sea-level rise issues, the U.S. EPA commissioned the report The Likelihood of Shore Protection along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Volume 2: New England and the Southeast. Chapter 4: Georgia. Released in 2010, the Report examines likelihood that coastal lands in Georgia will be protected from rising sea level by characterizing the likely response of both state residents and state/local governments. The study develops maps distinguishing the areas likely to be protected from erosion and inundation as the sea rises, from those areas that are likely to be left to retreat naturally. Sea level rise planning maps divide coastal land into four categories: developed (shore protection almost certain), intermediate (shore protection likely), undeveloped (shore protection unlikely), and conservation (no shore protection), which are designed to help start the dialogue for communities to decide what they should do. These maps are meant to define the initial response to sea-level rise over the next several decades. It is also hoped that the report can be used to estimate the cumulative impacts of shoreline armoring. In the future this study should be utilized extensively by planning departments to determine the best way to adapt to climate change impacts.

Click here for a link to a summary of the above study, as prepared by the Georgia Coastal Regional Commission. The summary states that in Chatham County, home of both Savannah and the Tybee Island coastal community, all private coastal lands are expected to be developed in the future. In other coastal counties, which are comprised largely of rural land, development is unlikely. Along the ocean, shore protection is almost certain for most developed areas.

In 2008 the River Basin Center received a Coastal Incentive Grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division to study the impacts of climate change on Georgia's coastal communities Sea Level Rise on Georgia's Coast. The 3-year project will evaluate sea level rise scenarios in Georgia and their implications for areas of projected growth. For year one, the RBC modeled one meter sea level rise using the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) . The website provides links to online static and animated maps visualizing the Georgia coast under a predicted one meter sea-level rise scenario. Relative coastal vulnerabilities, aerial images with predicted inundation areas for 1 meter sea-level rise, and land cover change statistics/metadata are also available for download.

The Georgia Sea Grant Program has funded the proposal Assessing Shoreline Change and Coastal Hazards for the Georgia Coast, whose objectives are to assess shoreline change rates for the perimeter of each Georgia barrier island complex, including upland and attached marsh platform, and to assess and map coastal hazards for each island.

Formed in 2002, the Georgia Coastal Research Council acts as a forum for exchange between coastal researchers and coastal managers. In August 2009 the 3rd biennial Coastal Georgia Colloquium was held in Savannah and attended by 60 scientists and managers. Specific topics discussed during the colloquium included coastal development and climate change.

The Georgia Land Conservation Initiative focuses on mapping habitats for eleven coastal zones. By ranking each habitat according to sensitivity and status, the Initiative will be used to determine which areas should be developed versus those that should be preserved. It is hoped that climate change impact data and sea-level rise data will eventually be overlayed on these maps to further help with future planning in these areas.

Sponsored by Sapelo Island Coastal Training Program and Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division, the Planning for Climate Change Workshop was held in Savannah July 28th 2010. The workshop included discussion and presentations on climate change impacts in Georgia, sea-level rise history and shoreline change planning tools, fundamental concepts in planning for climate change, case studies, and community engagement and addressing barriers to adaptation

Georgia is part of the Governors South Atlantic Alliance, which will be publishing a report entitled “Disaster Resilient Communities” by September/October of 2010. The study will include discussions on climate change impacts and adaptation.

In order to help officials and managers better manage the coastal resource; 2001 Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve began development of the Coastal Training Program as an extension of its overall education program. In the 2009 Needs Assessment document, beach erosion was cited as an important issue.

As discussed in an article on NOAA's Digital Coast website:

The NOAA Sea Grant Community Climate Adaptation Initiative, which includes several partners, worked with the City of Tybee Island to identify the areas of the island most vulnerable to sea level rise using the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer. Once these areas were identified, a plan was developed for dealing with the current problems of flooding and frequent high tides, as well as future sea level rise. City staff members also used the visuals provided by the viewer at public meetings to display vulnerable areas and increase awareness of the impacts that future sea level rise could have on the community.

Using the information provided by the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer, the city has prioritized its action plan. The viewer showed the community that the causeway to the island, which is underwater already during spring tides, will be underwater with 1 foot of sea level rise above mean higher high water. Because the causeway is the only road to the island, addressing this concern was determined to be the first priority. The second priority was protecting the beachfront, and the third was bulk-heading and protecting the marsh buffers on the back of the island. Not only did the viewer show the areas most vulnerable to flooding, but it also provided a critical means for focusing the conversation on the local issues at Tybee during public meetings.


Georgia Conservancy's Design + Research Blueprints project concentrates on sea level rise challenges and adaptation opportunities for five communities along the Georgia coast: City of Savannah, Tybee Island, City of Darien, City of Brunswick, and City of St. Marys. These locations were selected because of their various geographic positions along the coast, as well as their different challenges and opportunities. A Blueprints team, composed of Blueprints staff, Professor Richard Dagenhart, Dr. Tom Debo and graduate students in a Georgia Tech College of Architecture Design + Research Studio spent almost six months preparing this report. The team made site visits, interviewed government officials, residents and business owners, collected data and reviewed other communities’ planning and design strategies for sea level rise. The studio was multidisciplinary, including students in the Master of Science in Urban Design, Master of Architecture and Master of City and Regional Planning. The Studio developed alternative planning and design approaches for the five coastal communities and developed a set of draft recommendations for stakeholder consideration. These recommendations are supported by Blueprints advisors and form the basis of this report. The final output of the process is the report Retreat. Adapt. Defend. Designing Community Response to Sea Level Rise in Five Coastal Georgia Communities, which aims to educate communities across the state and to begin considering responses to climate change and sea level rise. Although these recommendations are not aimed at immediate implementation, the team hopes the design and planning proposal will draw attention the issues of sea level rise, stimulate conversations, and help begin the process of making appropriate decisions today that will guide future decision over the coming decades.

A number of recently published erosion and climate change studies can also be utilized to help Georgia adapt to sea-level rise.


Coastal Hazards Contact

Jennifer Kline
Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division
912-264-7218

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.




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