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

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Illinois Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access76
Water Quality65
Beach Erosion6-
Erosion Response-3
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures7 3
Beach Ecology1-
Surfing Areas35
Website5-


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 Illinois'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

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has not been very involved in the area of coastal hazards. They do have several research projects regarding Climate Change.

The USGS has some Illinois coastal hazard information.

United States Great Lakes Shoreline Recession Rate Data Final Report (1994) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides some historical (1872 to 1975) erosion (recession rate) data for Illinois' Lake Michigan shoreline. The report also states:

The majority of the Illinois shoreline, from the Indiana border to Wilmette (which includes the City of Chicago), has been given a mean recession rate of 0.00 in the data base, as this section of shoreline is heavily protected and will likely remain so in the future (Charles Thompson, USACE Detroit, Personal Communication).


A type of coastal hazard somewhat unique to the coasts of the Great Lakes, including Illinois are seiches. A seiche (pronounced saysh) is caused by air pressure and wind. When storm fronts move rapidly from across a large body of water such as Lake Michigan, air pressure changes and strong downbursts of wind can form one large wave or a series of large waves. The wave or waves will travel across the lake until the seiche reaches shore, where it can be reflected and travel to the opposite shore. The height of the waves depends on the strength of the wind and air pressure contrasts that form the seiche. The largest seiche on record to strike the Illinois coast of Lake Michigan reached a maximum height of 10 feet, caused lakeshore damage, and drowned eight people. The ISGS Website includes an information page describing how seiches form.

Living on the Coast, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, provides guidance about living and working on the edges of the dynamic Great Lakes. The principal message of this document is to "do everything possible to avoid placing buildings and other structures where flooding, storm waves and erosion are likely to damage them or shorten their useful lives. If it is not possible to avoid these hazards, use shore protection methods that work with nature or have minimal negative effects on the nearshore environment and on neighboring properties."

Climate Change Adaptation

Introduction

Thus far Illinois has been relatively slow in addressing either climate change mitigation or adaptation. While the State has recently completed a Climate Action Plan, it lacks discussions concerning initial adaptation strategies and measures. The state has also done little in terms of shoreline management; only recently it sought application into the National Coastal Zone Management Program. The State lacks many of the simplest adaptation and coastal management tools, but which could easily be obtained. Coastal erosion data and studies, shoreline mapping, a centralized climate change portal, and increased educational and outreach materials would all help the state better prepare for climate change impacts. Illinois could also make marked improvements regarding its coastal management, as currently there are no statewide mandated setbacks, construction restrictions, or general policies/rules governing the shoreline. The acceptance of the Illinois Coastal Management Program into the National Program will thus increase the state’s ability to sustainably manage its coastlines, and help the state move towards a more effective management strategy.

Climate Change

In 2006 Governor Blagojevich announced a new global warming initiative, marking the beginning of a long-term strategy by the state to combat global climate change. Executive Order 2006-11 signed by the Governor created the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group, which was charged with considering a full range of policies and strategies to reduce GHG emissions in Illinois and make recommendations to the Governor. While the State had previously completed an initial Climate Action Plan in June 1994, and undertaken various climate change mitigation measures such as enhancing the use of wind power, biofuels and energy efficiency, an updated and comprehensive climate change strategy was notably lacking. In July 2007 the Advisory Group released its Report of the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group (ICCAG) that built on the steps the state had already taken to reduce GHG emissions, and recommended state-level strategies to meet new statewide GHG reduction goals:

  • Reach 1990 GHG emissions levels by 2020
  • Reduce GHG emissions 60% below 1990 levels by 2020


Click here for Policy Recommendations.

On September 18, 2008 the City of Chicago launched the Chicago Climate Action Plan with the goal “to reduce our emissions and prepare for change”. Headed by the Chicago Climate Task Force, Final Chicago Climate Action Plan set forth a strategy to help the city achieve its emissions reduction goals by 2020, as well as adapt to expected changes. In summer 2010, the Chicago Climate Action Plan Team released its first Progress Report, detailing the successes made in 2008 and 2009. The City additionally maintains a centralized climate change website that describes climate change and how it will affect Chicago, details the steps the city is taking to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and provides various educational and outreach tools. There are also links to a number of climate change research studies and reports.

Unfortunately the state of Illinois as a whole lags behind many of Chicago’s noteworthy initiatives. For example, while the state does maintain an ICCAG website detailing the Advisory group’s specific actions, there is no state sponsored climate change website. Besides links to a few different Pew Center on Global Climate Change outreach documents, the State has no additional climate change educational or outreach tools. There is a noticeable lack of information explaining the science behind climate change and how climate change is expected to impact the state. In further contrast to Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, the state’s Climate Action Plan fails to include any mention of adaptation measures, and no State Adaptation Plan has so far been issued.

Currently the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) maintains a relatively simple climate change portal that provides an easy-to-understand overview of climate change science and impacts, in addition to information on current climate change research and initiatives. Yet while the website commits the IISG to helping communities and individuals as they seek to mitigate and adapt to climate change, it lacks easily accessible outreach tools or documents.

Some highlighted research projects include:


The Illinois State Climatologist Office also has a website that details climate change impacts in Illinois.

The Illinois Conservation and Climate Initiative (ICCI) is a joint project of the State of Illinois and the Delta Institute that allows farmers and landowners to earn greenhouse gas emissions credits when they use conservation tillage, plant grasses and trees, or capture methane with manure digesters. See here. Also see:


Adaptation

For nearly a decade Lake Michigan has experienced below-average levels, a trend that is thought to be exacerbated by climate change as higher summer temperatures are expected to intensify lake evaporation, and increased winter temperatures are expected to decrease lake ice. The greatest declines are expected for Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, indicating that much of the Illinois coastline will experience falling lake levels. Yet lake levels undergo marked seasonal and annual fluctuations, with especially low levels during the mid-1920s, mid-1930s and mid-1960s, and exceptionally high levels during the early 1950s, 1970s, and mid-1980s. Storm waves superimposed on high water-surface levels have caused extensive and costly damage to the Illinois shoreline, and particularly Chicago lake-front businesses, parks, and condominiums. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) studies have shown:

  • That prehistoric lake-level fluctuations have been at least twice as great as those observed historically;
  • Why and where the structures "supporting" the shoreline are failing; and,
  • Why and where the sand, which normally protects the shoreline and maintains the beaches, is being depleted.


Scientists attribute some of these longer-term fluctuations to natural variations in climate thought to be driven in part by global phenomena, such as large-scale interactions between the oceans and atmosphere.

Scientific evidence suggests human-induced climate change-driven by emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases into the atmosphere-could also influence lake levels over the long term. A recent report on human-induced climate change commissioned by the Chicago Climate Task Force projects a one- to two-foot drop in Lake Michigan’s water level over the coming century if worldwide fossil fuel use continues unabated. It projects a zero to one-foot drop if fossil fuel use declines.

See Climate Change and Chicago’s Water Systems for more information.

Unfortunately these shifting, and at time unpredictable, lake levels give way to a false sense of security for many shoreline communities. Published by the Wisconsin Department of Administration and Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, the document Building a Great Lakes Spatial Decision Support Toolbox to Address Comprehensive Plan Implementation and Coastal Hazards Resilience highlights this predicament, stating:

“while the trend towards high lake levels has reversed, the current low levels pose a risk because they give a false sense of security for construction and development near the shore… furthermore, erosion processes continue even when the levels are low, especially through surface runoff on bluff tops and faces and through lakebed erosion”


Coastal erosion remains an issue for some areas of the coast, with record lake levels in 1985-86 causing a marked increase in erosion of bluffs surrounding Southern Lake Michigan, resulting in loss of beaches and properties. Analysis performed by USGS scientists revealed that bluffs between Willmette and Waukegan, Illinois are retreating at rates between 10 and 75 centimeters per year, and erosion rates north of Waukegan approach 300 centimeters per year. While the eroded sediment typically feeds the nearshore beaches, structures constructed to protect the bluffs reduce the amount of available sand. In addition, the lack of deposited sediments has increased the effects of wave action on the lakebed, further accelerating coastal retreat.

Historically the Illinois coast has also experienced considerable reduction in the volume of littoral sediment in transport. Coastal engineering along the Chicago lakeshore, particularly engineering in the vicinity of Chicago Harbor, has completely isolated the southern Chicago lakeshore from any littoral sediment supply from the north. Long-term reduction in the volume of littoral sediment transport has also occurred along the bluff coast as bluff erosion has been arrested and sediment supply to the littoral transport has been greatly reduced.

Visit the USGS Fact Sheet on Southern Lake Michigan for additional details.

Yet in contrast to Wisconsin, Illinois has no statewide setbacks, shoreline building restrictions, or plans for managed retreat. Furthermore, most of the state's shoreline is already extensively armored, and the booming metropolis of Chicago sits directly adjacent to Lake Michigan. The state also currently lacks an adaptation plan and extensive shoreline/erosion mapping. On a more positive note, as of August 2010 LiDAR data had been collected for Cook County and was in progress for Lake County. See here.

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program hosted Workshop: How can Great Lakes communities adapt to climate change? in December 2010. The Training workshop included 1) predicted impacts of climate change; 2) overview of an adaptation plan; 3) tools and information to adapt to climate change.

At this time the Illinois Coastal Management Program (ICMP) does also lacks lake-level-change policies or initiatives specific to climate change, however it should be noted that only recently has it sought application into the National Coastal Zone Management Program. Although the ICMP website does not highlight climate change as a specific area of concern, it does promise, in regards to sustainable development, that:

The ICMP will focus on the development of strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including reducing individual carbon footprints, and the expanding the use of our natural resources to act as natural carbon sinks.


The ICMP further notes that that it can (and will) benefit coastal communities by preventing and monitoring beach erosion. The ICMP also recently released its Coastal Management Program Document that includes a chapter dedicated to coastal erosion and erosion mitigation planning (see Chapter 4), as well as an Issues Paper titled Shoreline Erosion.

Recognizing its particularly vulnerable position, the City of Chicago has proven especially proactive with regards to climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition to its Climate Action Plan to mitigate GHG emissions, the City has also considered numerous adaptation measures, stating:

We must also take action by adapting to changes that are already happening and preparing for the changes ahead…Adaptation, the courses of action detailed here, will help reduce the impact of the changes that can be expected even if we greatly reduce emissions.


Although the City sets forth nine overarching adaptation strategies, none specifically relate to coastal erosion or shoreline development. However, under Strategy 5: Implement Green Urban Design, the City acknowledges that development should be able to endure possible flooding. The USGS has also undertaken a study of the Chicago shoreline using sidescan sonar imagery and seismic reflection geophysical techniques. See here for more information.

See also the following publication:


EcoAdapt announced in November 2012 the release of the synthesis report, The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region. The report is the result of a survey of freshwater resource managers, planners, and practitioners in the region who are tasked with developing strategies to prepare for and respond to a changing climate. This synthesis provides: a summary of key regional climate change impacts; examples of over 100 adaptation initiatives from the region, focusing on activities in the natural and built environments as they relate to freshwater resources; fifty-seven case studies, detailing how adaptation is taking shape; and an overview of challenges and opportunities for freshwater adaptation in the Great Lakes region.

NOAA's Climate Ready Great Lakes consists of three modules designed to help create a Great Lakes region that is “climate ready.” Toward this end, these modules provide stakeholders and decision makers with clear information about Great Lakes climate, as well as what we need to adapt to, why, and how. This project was sponsored by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network and the NOAA Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Team. Each module consists of a presentation (available in PowerPoint format) and supplemental materials, including worksheets, handouts, and evaluation forms. All of the supplemental materials are available here, or through the links here. The modules may be presented in their entirety, or users may wish to select a subset of the Powerpoint slides and support materials from one or more modules to suit their particular needs.

General Reference Documents

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. This site includes (or links to) the material available on the agency’s Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Change website and key reports from other government agencies.

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.




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