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Reference Material

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Adaptation Tool Kit:  Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use - How Governments Can Use Land-Use Practices to Adapt to Sea-Level Rise.  Jessica Grannis.
Rising sea levels in the foreseeable future present new challenges now for coastal land use planning. Local governments, which bear the largest responsibility for coastal planning, long have struggled with balancing strong demand for increasing development with protection of fragile environmental and cultural resources.  These threats include inundation, flooding, enhanced storm surges, loss of infrastructure, destruction of wetlands and beaches, and increased risks for public health and safety. Although taking regulatory initiatives to adapt to predicted future threats can be difficult politically, it also can conserve resources, mitigate crises, and protect ecosystems. This Tool Kit, prepared by the estimable Jessica Grannis with assistance from students in Georgetown Law’s Harrison Institute for Public Law, provides local and state governments and their citizens with practical knowledge to help adapt to sea level rise in a prudent and balanced manner. After laying out the problem in clear terms, based on current scientific consensus, the Tool Kit offers a menu of generally used legal devices that can reduce future harms. It also recognizes that not all tools are available in or suitable for all communities, and so anticipates and supports choice of approaches by each local and state government. It seeks to empower, not direct or judge. The document can be found HERE.
Combating Sea-Level Rise in Southern California: How Local Governments Can Seize Adaptation Opportunities While Minimizing Legal Risk Megan M. Herzog and Sean B. Hecht
As the primary coastal land use decision makers in Southern California, local governments will make choices that will shape the region’s resilience to sea-level rise. To implement adaptation plans effectively, local governments must understand the ways law enhances their adaptive capacity by providing them with the necessary legal authority to take actions to adapt to changing sea-level conditions. Additionally, local governments must appreciate legal risks—that is, potential legal limitations on adaptation tools, as well as potential liability to private parties for harms related to the adverse effects both of adaptation actions and sea-level rise itself. This article identifies how local governments can harness legal doctrines to support aggressive, innovative strategies to achieve successful sea-level rise adaptation outcomes for Southern California while minimizing legal risk. We broadly outline likely sea-level rise impacts in Southern California, and evaluate the risks and opportunities of potential protection, accommodation, and retreat adaptation strategies that local governments could deploy. We focus primarily on four categories of legal issues that may be implicated as Southern California localities plan for the impacts of sea-level rise: 1) the California Coastal Act, 2) the public trust doctrine, 3) the constitutional takings doctrine, and 4) the California Environmental Quality Act. We divide our analysis of these legal doctrines into their potential interactions with both private development and critical municipal infrastructure like roads, power plants, and ports. Overall, we demonstrate how Southern California local governments can harness their existing regulatory authority to support aggressive sea-level rise adaptation strategies. The document can be found HERE.

Coastal Commission Guidance:
The LCP Update Guide consists of two parts:
Part I – Updating LCP Land Use Plan (LUP) Policies - is relevant to an update of the Land Use Plan component of the LCP. Part I covers the resource protection policies contained in Chapter 3 of the Coastal Act, (grouped into eleven sections), and implementation measures directly related to carrying out the policies of the LUP.

This document provides guidance for updating Local Coastal Programs (LCPs). The California Coastal Act of 1976 ushered in an era of significant new land use planning in California. Based on the Coastal Act’s requirements, local governments prepared and implemented LCPs to carry out the Act’s mandate to protect coastal resources and maximize public access to the shoreline. LCPs established the kinds, locations, and intensities of new development allowed in the coastal zone, and identified other development standards necessary to achieve the objectives of the Coastal Act. Once an LCP was certified by the Coastal Commission as consistent with Coastal Act requirements, local governments were then given the authority to, and responsibility for, issuing coastal permits for most new development, subject to the standards of their certified LCPs.

The document can be found HERE.

Part II – Updating LCP Implementation Plan (IP) Procedures - covers the procedures that local governments use to implement LCP policies. These procedures primarily involve local issuance of coastal permits pursuant to a local government’s LCP.

This document contains guidance for local governments that may be considering an update of the Implementation Plan (IP) component of their Local Coastal Program (LCP). The California Coastal Act of 1976 requires that local governments prepare and implement LCPs to carry out the Act’s policies to protect coastal resources and maximize public access to the shoreline. An LCP consists of a Land Use Plan (LUP), which details the kinds, locations and intensity of land uses, and resource protection and development policies in the coastal zone, and an Implementation Plan, which includes land use zoning and other implementing ordinances that conform with and carry out the Land Use Plan. Effective zoning ordinances and procedures (the IP) ensure that the objectives of the Land Use Plan are achieved.

The document can be found HERE.

Sea Level Rise Guidance and Reference Material:
The CCC also provides guidelines specifically related to sea level rise policies. The 2015 Sea-Level Rise Policy Guidance addresses development and public access issues from sea level rise, including outline sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation measures. Recently, many documents outlining SLR have been created to promote knowledge and understanding on the topic as well as guidance for incorporating this information into planning documents and decisions.

National Level

In 2012, the National Research Council (NRC) published a document "Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future". It projected sea level rise for years 2030, 2050 and 2100, discussing the issue globally as well as focusing on the West Coast of the United States. Many documents and policies are based off of this research.
More information and the full document can be found here.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) promotes coastal resiliency in its report “Building Coastal Resilience for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Adaptation”. The report takes a look at the issue of sea level rise worldwide and promotes using natural ecosystems to mitigate the damage to the coasts. In addition to this report, TNC also provides a useful tool for planning: the Coastal Resilience Mapping Portal. This tool allows any interested party to look at projected sea level rise areas for a specific area, varying the degree of sea level rise, the time frame and the issue of concern. Maps for Monterey, Ventura, and Santa Barbara can be found here.  

The US Environmental Protection Agency created a document “Synthesis of Adaptation Options for Coastal Areas” holistically addressing seal level rise effects on wetlands, sediment transport, vulnerable species, etc.


The CA Ocean Protection Council’s report “State of California Sea-Level Rise Guidance Document” also uses the projection levels provided in the NRC’s 2012 document in order to provide guidance for planning agencies. It emphasizes the importance of adaptive capacity in regards to sea level rise and climate change.

Santa Barbara County

The County of Santa Barbara’s current Coastal Resiliency Project incorporates scenario planning with the NRC’s projected SLR time frames of 2030, 2060 and 2100 and TNC’s emphasis on the use of natural buffers to protect infrastructure. The City of Goleta with the County, the Cities of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, on this project.