More and more coastal communities face hard evidence that sea level rise (SLR) is far from abstract but is becoming very, very real – as in “water lapping at your doorstep” real. This has pushed them to take steps to keep their communities safe – an effort that has increasingly been referred to as working toward coastal resilience – the ability of an area to lessen risk, protect resources and enhance recovery in the event of a coastal calamity.
How does a community pursue resilience? Here are a few examples:
In response to an opportunity offered in Florida Statutes to create an “adaptation action area” as part of a mandated comprehensive planning effort, communities such as Yankeetown (on the Big Bend area of the Florida coast between Tampa and the Panhandle) has developed a way to approach land use planning that better addresses and accommodates resilience.
It does so by including factors not always engaged in a planning discussion:
It then follows with a section on “shoreline transgression,” specifically to address any vegetation or species migration necessitated by SLR through land acquisition and other methods. It also addresses structural adaptation to SLR, either through relocation, removal, shoreline stabilization (soft solutions first, then hard) or modification.
Finally, the plan works to engage both citizens and other governments to both understand and coordinate with resilience planning – a prudent recognition that political will and empathetic outside regulation are crucial to planning for SLR success.
This kind of anticipatory (or at least quickly responsive) approach can be seen around the country:
Building resilience is challenge in the best environments, as competing interests need to be balanced and different needs be recognized. But in areas as dynamic as our nation’s coasts, making them more resilient to inevitable natural events is a complex task indeed. It’s only through planning and persistence that success is likely to be achieved.