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Coastal Storm Adaptation

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Coastal areas in the U.S. are economic drivers for the whole country, supporting port commerce, valuable fisheries, and multiple revenue streams for state and local governments. However, coastal areas are especially vulnerable to hazards, now and in the future, posed by waves and surges associated with sea level change and coastal storms. Recent hurricane events have emphasized the increasing vulnerability of coastal areas to natural disasters through the combination of changing climate, geological processes and continued urbanization and economic investment. Compared to sea level change, there is less knowledge and less consensus of opinion about how climate change will impact coastal storms. To add even more complexity, these effects will likely be different in the Atlantic than the Gulf of Mexico, and even more different than for the Pacific Coast.

USACE continues to work with Federal science agencies and other experts to learn more about coastal climate change impacts and how to adapt to these changes that can cause damages to human life and property as well as ecosystems. USACE considers the full array of coastal risk reduction measures, including natural or nature-based features (e.g., dunes), nonstructural interventions (e.g., policies, building codes and land use zoning, and emergency response such as early warning and evacuation plans), and structural interventions (e.g., seawalls or breakwaters), and combinations of these features. Natural and nature-based features can attenuate waves and provide other ecosystem services (e.g. habitat, nesting grounds for fisheries, etc.), however, they also respond dynamically to processes such as storms, both negatively and positively, with temporary or permanent consequences. Nonstructural measures are most often under the jurisdiction of State and local governments (and individuals) to develop, implement and regulate, and cannot be imposed by the federal government. Perhaps more well-known are the structural measures that reduce coastal risks by decreasing shoreline erosion, wave damage and flooding.

Together with its partners and stakeholders, USACE can apply science and engineering to configure an integrated approach to risk reduction through the incorporation of natural and nature-based features in addition to nonstructural and structural measures that also improve social, economic, and ecosystem resilience. To clarify our commitment to using the full array of measures for coastal risk reduction, USACE recently published a report "Coastal Risk Reduction and Resilience: Using the Full Array of Measures."



Reviewed 20 June 2016


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