State of the Beach/State Reports/MN/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. 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):
- 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.
- 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 Minnesota'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
To overcome gaps in its erosion rate data, Minnesota adopted a hybrid approach to their setback lines along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Minnesota's North Shore Management Plan establishes a setback of 50 times the annual erosion rate plus 25 feet in areas where erosion data is available and reverts to a standard 125-foot setback elsewhere.
The North Shore Management Board is responsible for defining the minimum zoning standards for Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. The Board’s area of authority is property that lies between a Lake Superior and a line that is 300 feet inland from Highway 61 or a line that is 1,000 feet from Lake Superior, whichever is greater. The North Shore Management Board finished an update of its Management Plan in June of 2004. The NSMB is now working with the participating entities to implement the new regulations.
The North Shore Management Board's Erosion Hazard Area Planning Process Definition (May 2008) presents background information on erosion studies and erosion response planning efforts along Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior.
The brochure Management of Bluffs and Slopes provides information regarding ways to prevent on minimize shoreline erosion problems. These include zoning for compatible land uses, implementing appropriate bluff setbacks for structures, and requiring modern erosion-control and stormwater measures that are necessary to preserve the integrity of steep slopes and bluffs.
The Department of Natural Resources' Lakescaping and shoreland restoration Web page emphasizes the importance and benefits of maintaining natural buffer zones for shoreland properties. Also see Stabilizing Your Shoreline to Prevent Erosion from University of Minnesota Extension.
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."
By adopting the North Shore Management Plan standards for erosion hazard zones into local zoning ordinances, new construction has been set farther back and there has been an increase in public knowledge and acceptance of these hazard zones. In addition, through grants, loans, and cooperative actions with other agencies, the coastal SWCDs have been effective at protecting the more serious coastal erosion hazard areas. The DNR Area Hydrologists provide needed technical support on coastal projects.
Lake Superior’s large size and associated storms and waves provide the major forces, which act upon the coast. In addition, the area’s steep slopes, clay soils and bedrock can contribute to flash floods in its tributary streams that in the past have damaged or destroyed roads, bridges and even whole hillsides. Shallow soils and prominent bedrock features of the region, coupled with streams that are heavily influenced by surface water flow create conditions of very high peak flows and very low base flow conditions which can lead to significant stream bank erosion. The lacustrine red clay soils in Carlton, St. Louis and Lake Counties are particularly prone to erosion and slumping, and are a major source of sediment to the lake. Minnesota Point, a large baymouth bar in Duluth, is subject to dune erosion and flooding during high lake levels. Episodic erosion of low-lying cobble beaches occurs farther north.
Minnesota’s coastal hazard data is very limited. Data currently available to MLSCP was created in 1999, and contains documented accuracy issues. Current data is also at a scale not compatible with the fine detail required to support land use decision-making processes.
The 2006 Coastal Assessment and Strategy noted:
Lake Superior is currently 8” below it’s normal June level. Lake levels were an issue five years ago, and continue to be an issue today. Landowners and developers have become aware of this trend, and often challenge local ordinances, and building setback requirements. Low priority funding for permit compliance monitoring, and development in remote areas provide an environment for a shoot first ask questions later mentality to development. Large condominium and town home development are replacing single-family dwellings. As impervious surfaces increase on the coastline, storm water damage is replacing damage created by wave action and higher lake levels.
A noted increase in public education and outreach is tied, in part, to the Lake Superior Shoreline Protection Program, which is funded through a Clean Water Partnership (CWP) grant. CWP projects included the Nemadji River Basin Clean Water Project, St. Louis River Mercury Reduction Pilot Project, Midway River Watershed Restoration, Fond du Lac Nonpoint Source Assessment and Management Plan, Shared Coastal Zone Engineering Assistance, Nonpoint Source Analysis of the Nemadji River and St. Louis River, Great Lakes Erosion Control, and St. Louis River Phosphorus Abatement, and Reduction. Three coastal counties (St. Louis, Lake, Cook) provide low interest loans and technical services through the SWCDs for controlling erosion within the Lake Superior watershed. The program has been effective in Lake and Cook Counties where a request has been made for additional CWP funds. (A portion of the money is also set aside for loans to upgrade failed septic systems within the same area). The success of this program is due to both the recognition of a need as well as effective outreach/education by SWCD staff in helping to publicize and work with those who stand to benefit from the loans. A limitation to its greater success is the high cost that is required for some of the erosion control projects (availability of large rock for rip rap, hauling rates, etc.).
Mapping/GIS/tracking of hazard areas
The 2002 oblique photography project has provided planners and decision makers with a tool for examining and analyzing Lakes Superior’s shoreline. State and LGU staff can use oblique photos in site analysis using existing GIS data like erosion hazard areas, topography, soils and aerial photos. With an update of oblique photography, staff will be able to compare photos to look for changes in shoreline integrity, and development impact.
Although significant progress has been made over the last ten years in helping to address the major coastal hazards on Lake Superior, more is needed. The current low water period tends to foster an air of complacency that may change when Lake Superior enters its next high water cycle of increased storms and coastal erosion. Data and benchmarks established during the 1980's should be re-examined and set so that the coastal hazard areas and their associated recession rates can be more accurately defined. There is a significant lack of current and past data to assist in this effort. The use of GIS and GPS technology can make this an effective tool for local zoning administrators in managing their erosion hazard areas. Without high quality data, there may be a lessening of the public’s acceptance of the hazard areas, especially, during periods of relatively low erosion and storm activity.
The Coastal Hazards section of the 2006 Coastal Assessment and Strategy concludes:
There is a need to further develop the technical capability of local governments. Most local governments do not have the technical capability to develop appropriate authorities to adequately mange the lakeshore resources. Strategies to address these needs are included with the section on cumulative and secondary impacts.
There is a need to re-examine and update recession rates within erosion hazard areas and put the information into GIS format so that it can be used in local permit activities, and support updated zoning ordinances. Analysis should be extended to include the identification of high erosion areas on the streams that lie within the coastal area. Red clay slump and bank erosion sites are not inventoried in a GIS. Storm events and springtime thaw often color the off shore area red with clay sediments. Sediment impact on water quality and trout habitat, and erosion damage to local property remains a concern in these areas.
Minnesota lacks important data to effectively monitor coastal hazards. An update of existing Oblique photography, high-resolution vertical photography (under one meter), LIDAR data, and GPS technology would help MLSCP and its coastal communities establish a baseline coastal hazard data set. Baseline data would need to be maintained with a frequency of five years to effectively monitor recession rates, erosion hazard areas, and land use changes.
The Lake Superior coastline would be needed as the highest priority area. Additionally, identification and management of inland erosion areas along Minnesota’s streams are also needed.
The Heinz Center's Evaluation of Erosion Hazards, conducted for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, studied the causes of coastal erosion hazards and proposed a variety of national and regional responses. The study, published in April 2000, concentrates on the economic impacts of erosion response policies and the cost of erosion itself to homeowners, businesses, and governmental entities.
Climate Change Adaptation
Like most coastal states, areas along Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline experience severe, chronic erosion. Yet in contrast to the open ocean, Great Lakes levels are actually projected to decrease due to climate change. Coastal erosion will nevertheless remain an issue, as an increase in the severity and frequency of storms will continue to wear away bluffs and shorelines, and additionally contribute to extensive flooding.
Minnesota, while proving very proactive in terms of climate change mitigation, has been relatively slow to adapt to climate change impacts along its shorelines. A major factor could be the fact that lake levels appear to be on the decline, but nevertheless, significant adaptation measures have yet to be undertaken at either the state or local level. The state lacks an overarching State Adaptation Plan, but has diligently pursued GHG reduction strategies and invested extensively in alternative energies. Although not specifically directed towards climate change, in the last ten years, significant progress has also been made in helping to address the major coastal hazards on Lake Superior. The state also maintains climate change website, and has recently planned for increased educational and outreach opportunities. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s considerable lack of coastal hazard data, shoreline mapping projects and LiDAR acquisition remain serious obstacles to effectively plan for climate change.
Although Minnesota’s current shoreline setbacks are a step in the right direction, increasing coastal development and climate change impacts will necessitate additional development restrictions. And while the State has not formally adopted a managed retreat policy or erosion rate-based setbacks, natural shoreline restoration is highly advocated by both the DNR and Minnesota’s Sea Grant. In the near future it will be important for Minnesota to not only increase, but also consolidate, its erosion studies, hazard mitigation plans, adaptation strategies and decision making tools into one comprehensive and easily implementable guidance document, such as a State Adaptation Plan.
In December 2006, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty announced the state’s Next Generation Energy Initiative, declaring:
“The challenges are not new, and the solutions are within our reach. It’s time for a new direction – with new leadership and devotion – to solve these challenges. Together I believe we can find and follow a pathway to a better, cleaner, more secure energy future.”
The Initiative, signed into law as the Next Generation Energy Act, provides a framework for helping the state transform itself to a reliable, environmentally-sustainable and economically-sustaining energy system. Building on Minnesota’s previously enacted climate change policies, the Act aimed to continue to increase the state’s renewable energy usage and energy conservation, decrease its carbon emissions, and further specifies the development of a comprehensive GHG reductions plan. To accomplish these goals, the Act established aggressive goals for Minnesotans to reduce statewide GHG emissions across all sectors to a level at least 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. The Act also created the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG) charged with considering, evaluating, and compiling a multi-sector set of recommended climate change policy options. Prior to the 2007 Initiative, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released the Minnesota Climate Change Action Plan: A Framework for Climate Change Action in 2003. The report detailed what climate change would mean for Minnesota, provided a background summary of climate change science, highlighted international and national climate change initiatives, and in general, provided a framework for a Minnesota climate change action plan. In terms of adaptation, the report set forth sectoral impacts and adaptation options for the water resources, ecosystems, and recreation sectors.
The Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group released the final Minnesota Climate Mitigation Action Plan in February 2008. The report provides a list of the state’s existing mitigation strategies, an inventory and projections of GHG emissions, and recommended actions for reducing GHG emissions throughout the state’s various economic sectors. Six Technical Working Groups were formed to identify and analyze the potential policy actions for: Energy Supply; Residential, Commercial, and Industrial; Transportation and Land Use; Agriculture, Forestry and Waste Management; Cross-Cutting Issues; and Cap-and-Trade. In its final report, the MCCAG adopted 46 policy recommendations to help the state better respond to climate change. Unfortunately the state currently lacks a State Adaptation Plan, and no mention of one is made in the MCCAG’s final report. The Climate Mitigation Action Plan also does not refer to coastal erosion or the effects of climate change on Minnesota’s shoreline.
In January 2009 the MCCAG presented to the Minnesota Legislature its report titled Progress in Addressing Climate Change. The report details Minnesota’s progress in reducing GHG emissions and makes policy/legislative recommendations to achieve the GHG emission reductions set forth in the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. Recent data indicates GHG emissions from Minnesota sources declined by about 2 million CO2-equivalent short tons between 2005 and 2006. The report was prepared for the legislature by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security (OES) and the Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Read more.
In January 2010 the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Report 2010, the Second Annual Legislative Proposal Report on Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions as required by Minnesota Statutes 216H.07, subd. 3. The report includes new recommendations for legislative initiatives in 2010 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and an update on the status of the legislative initiatives that were proposed in the 2009 report.
In November 2007, the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) held the Midwest Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Summit which resulted in six Midwest Governors and the Premier of Manitoba signing the Midwestern Governors Association Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. Minnesota signed on as a Participating State. Under the Midwestern Accord, members agree to:
- Establish greenhouse gas reduction targets and timeframes consistent with MGA member states’ targets;
- Develop a market-based and multi-sector cap-and-trade mechanism to help achieve those reduction targets;
- Establish a system to enable tracking, management and crediting for entities that reduce GHG emissions; and
- Develop and implement additional steps as needed to achieve the reduction targets, such as a low-carbon fuel standards and regional incentives and funding mechanisms.
In addition to the Midwestern Accord, eight members of the MGA signed the Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest which lists a number of Midwest regional goals to transition the region to a lower carbon energy economy. See the Midwestern Governors Association website for more information about the Association’s climate change initiatives.
The Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group maintains a comprehensive climate change website that details the Group’s actions, provides a summary of the state’s existing mitigation measures, and additionally details the science behind climate change and expected climate change impacts. See the website here.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also sponsors a climate change website titled: Climate Change mitigation and adaptation – managing land and water in the face of change. The DNR uses a three-pronged strategy to address climate change through mitigation, adaptation, and monitoring. The DNR has set forth long term desired outcomes and key measure to evaluate progress. Detailed descriptions of the DNR’s climate change measures can be found in the DNR’s Strategic Conservation Agenda: Part II - Performance and Accountability Report.
- Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Initiative brochure
- Memorandum to Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group Members
Minnesota DNR statewide minimum shoreland standards apply to all lakes greater than 25 acres, 10 acres in municipalities. These standards apply to the use and development of shoreland property including: a sanitary code, minimum lot size and water frontage, building setbacks and heights, land use, BMPs, shoreland alterations, subdivision and PUD regulations. The Shoreland Management Act regulates all land within 1,000 feet of a lake and 300 feet of a river and its designated floodplain. Upon notification by DNR Waters, local governmental units having shorelands are required to adopt these or stricter standards into their zoning ordinances. For more information visit DNR’s Shoreland Management Standards website.
Numerous coastal areas along Lake Superior’s shoreline suffer from severe erosion and excessive flooding. Shallow soils and prominent bedrock features of the region, coupled with streams that are heavily influenced by surface water flow create conditions of very high peak flows and very low base flow conditions which can lead to significant stream bank erosion. Yet in contrast to many open ocean areas undergoing sea-level rise, climate change is expected to actually decrease Great Lakes levels. Increased summer temperatures, which in turn increase lake evaporation, combined with earlier snow/ice melts is projected to increasingly lower lake levels. Already Lake Superior is 8 ft. below its normal June level, and is expected to drop even further with climate change. However, Great Lakes levels have historically undergone significant fluctuations, many times coinciding with anomalous weather events. For example, Lake Superior’s record low levels corresponded with the dust bowl years of the 1930’s and a severe drought in 1964. Record high levels were recorded in 1986, but since that time have generally been declining, a concern because lower water levels are consistent with most global climate change forecasts.
For more information on lake level fluctuations see:
- Water Levels of the Great Lakes
- NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab
- NOAA Great Lakes Water Levels
- Lake Superior Water Levels Near Record Low
Unfortunately, landowners and developers have become aware of the falling lake level trend, often challenging local ordinances and building setback requirements. Low priority funding for permit compliance monitoring, and development in remote areas provide an environment for a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality to development. Large condominium and town home development are replacing single-family dwellings. As impervious surfaces increase on the coastline, storm water damage is replacing damage created by wave action and higher lake levels.
Minnesota’s shoreline is thus plagued by many of the same issues surrounding lake level declines in Wisconsin, as observed in the recent publication Building a Great Lakes Spatial Decision Support Toolbox to Address Comprehensive Plan Implementation and Coastal Hazards Resilience:
“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”
Minnesota’s sediment and erosion control efforts have also been highlighted as model case studies by NOAA’s Coastal Management Program. NOAA’s CMP relates the case of Grand Marais, MN, a small town on the slope of Lake Superior that is routinely flooded by summer storms and suffers from severe erosion problems. With funding from Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Management Program, Grand Marais developed a storm water management plan to address these coastal issues. Using their new storm water plan as a guide, the town's multi-agency storm water committee was then able to prioritize projects to improve Grand Marais' storm water management system and restore water quality. Thus far the plan has also established a defined process to implement further runoff control efforts, in addition to promoting cooperation between city and county government, two groups that had not worked together closely in the past. For more information see: Sediment and Erosion Control Efforts in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Sea Grant website also highlighted the study Coping with Erosion and High Water on Minnesota Point in Duluth. The study compared flooding and erosion events between Minnesota Point’s lake and bay side shorelines, completing an inventory of shoreline armoring and using a public survey to assess the effects of Lake Superior’s 1985-1986 high water levels. Located at the western tip of Lake Superior, Minnesota Point stands extremely vulnerable to the erosive forces of the Lake Superior. On the lake side, extensive sand dunes are constantly shifted by wind blowing off the lake. On the bay side, the land is relatively low and is therefore susceptible to flooding and wave-induced erosion. Record high water levels during 1985–86 caused extensive flooding along Minnesota Point.
The study interestingly revealed significant differences in the nature of the erosion and flood problems on the two sides of Minnesota Point. On the bay side, most structures were found to have a minimal setback from the water, with many less than three feet above the long-term average lake level. Consequently, if the lake rises even slightly above normal, many of these properties are subjected to flooding. The intensity of erosion on the bay side is considerably lower because the bay has only several miles of open water or fetch, over which waves can build. On the lake side, in contrast, the maximum fetch exceeds 350 miles. On the lake side, erosion rates are greater, but most structures are on higher ground and have a much deeper setback. More than one-third of the structures on the bay side have setbacks of less than 30 feet, whereas 90% of those on the lake side have setbacks of more than 100 feet. Three areas with different types of erosion and flood problems were identified.
The report concluded that restoration and maintenance of the natural dune system would prove the most effective response to these severe erosion and flooding events, not extensive shoreline armoring. Revegetation of dune systems with native plants, in addition to controlling pedestrian traffic and prohibiting the use of vehicles, are suggested as likely responses to help reduce wind erosion. While slightly outdated, the study highlights the issues that are likely to face Minnesota’s coastal communities in the future. Additional studies such as these should therefore continue, and could prove greatly beneficial to affected coastal communities. The study also acknowledges:
Lake Superior water levels will continue to go through periodic fluctuations. Residents of Minnesota Point should acknowledge the inevitability of such fluctuations and plan accordingly.
Unfortunately, as noted above, Minnesota’s coastal hazard data remains very limited and largely outdated. Data currently available to MLSCP was created in 1999, contains documented accuracy issues, and is at a scale not compatible with the fine detail required to support land use decision-making processes. LiDAR data mapping has not yet been completed for the three lake bordering counties, although it is planned for these areas (as of October 2009). There remains a dire need to re-examine and update recession rates within erosion hazard areas and put the information into easily accessible formats for local shoreline planners. Analysis should be extended to include the identification of high erosion areas on the streams that lie within the coastal area. Red clay slump and bank erosion sites are currently not inventoried in a GIS.
Fortunately, adopting Maryland and Virginia’s Living Shorelines Initiative, Minnesota’s DNR Lakescaping and shoreland restoration Web page emphasizes the importance and benefits of maintaining natural buffer zones for shoreland properties. The initiative highlights the importance of utilizing lakescaping as a form of natural erosion control. See also the University of Minnesota Extension.
Minnesota Sea Grant maintains a climate change website: Climate Change in Minnesota and the Lake Superior Basin. The Sea Grant’s mission, in terms of climate change, is to focus on science and how a changing climate could affect Lake Superior, Minnesota’s aquatic resources, and the people and communities that rely on these resources. The website details climate change science, expected impacts on Lake Superior and its coastal communities, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, and provides links to various technical reports. In terms of adaptation, Sea Grant suggests:
People and communities in Minnesota and around the Lake Superior Basin should be planning for a different environment over the next century. Ideally, we will all adopt measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to expected changes.
Although it does not lay out specific strategies for adaptation, the website does highlight the fact that current infrastructure is severely undersized and cannot handle the intense rains and higher winds that coastal communities are, and will, experiencing.
DNR’s Strategic Conservation Agenda: Part II - Performance and Accountability Report has identified a number of indicators to evaluate the health and quality of Minnesota’s water resources and watersheds. Each indicator is paired with a coinciding “target” that acts to guide DNR’s activities. One indicator that could possibly be related to climate change adaptation includes determining the number of buildings removed from flood plains. In response, DNR has set a target to maintain or increase efforts to remove buildings from floodplains, in a way similar to a managed retreat strategy employed along open ocean shorelines. Additional indicators, and their associated targets, include:
- Number of shoreline alteration permits requested and approved for riprap and retaining walls
- Target: decrease the number of shoreline alteration permits issued for riprap and retaining walls
- Ability to monitor “no net loss” of wetlands; net change in wetland acres
- Target – implement a comprehensive monitoring program to monitor no net loss statewide beginning in 2006; achieve no net loss of Minnesota wetlands
- Number of river and stream restoration projects
- Target – Update the statewide stream restoration priority list biannually; complete priority projects with partners
The report also identified shoreline development and wetland loss as critical trends occurring throughout the state’s coastal areas, ones that are only expect to become more worsen in the future. Although the report does not set forth adaptation strategies, nor does it explicitly recognize climate change, it does address many of the issues Minnesota will likely face due to a changing climate.
- Assessment and Strategies for Coastal Program Enhancements to Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program 2006-2010
- Final Evaluation Findings Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program October 2004 – July 2008
- Minnesota Shoreland Management Resource Guide
- Management of Bluffs and Slopes brochure
- Stabilizing Your Shoreline to Prevent Erosion
- 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
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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