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Sea-Level Change Adaptation

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Sea-level change has been the focus of intense interest by the U.S. water resources science agencies (NOAA and USGS), along with other agencies contributing to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP, 2009) and the third US National Climate Assessment You are leaving a Federal Government web site. Click this icon for more information. (2014). Among the recent science reports supporting the development of new guidance are the NRC's 2012 report Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future You are leaving a Federal Government web site. Click this icon for more information. and the expert report published by NOAA-USGS-SERDP-USACE on Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment This link leaves this site for another Federal Government web site., which was written in support of the 2013 National Climate Assessment. Finally, agency reports and peer review literature contain more than 10,000 citations in the area of sea-level change (or sea-level rise).

Because of the importance of coastal areas to the missions and operations of the USACE, the agency has considered sea-level change in its planning activities since 1986, beginning with EC 1105-2-186: Planning Guidance on the Incorporation of Sea Level Rise Possibilities in Feasibility Studies (pdf, 609 KB) in 1989. In 2000, USACE incorporated sea-level change considerations in its Planning Guidance Notebook, and in 2009, released an Engineer Circular (EC) 1165-2-211, Incorporating Sea-Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs (pdf, 457 KB), Engineer Circular (EC 1165-2-212 Sea-Level Change Considerations for Civil Works Programs). Engineer Circulars have a two-year lifespan, so this EC has been superseded by Engineer Regulation 1100-2-8162, Incorporating Sea Level Change in Civil Works Program, released in December 2013. In July 2014, USACE published guidance on how to adapt to changing sea levels, Engineer Technical Letter 1100-2-1, Procedures to Evaluate Sea Level Change: Impacts, Responses and Adaptation (pdf, 4.75 MB). An existing probabilistic tool used to assess vulnerability of non-developed natural coastlines or beach protection projects (Beachfx) has been updated for use with the new sea-level guidance.

USACE has a nationwide interagency team that includes external and international experts currently engaged in developing follow-on guidance that will evaluate total water levels affected by surge, waves, and tides in addition to sea level change.

USACE also provides support through its Responses to Climate Change Program to interagency efforts such as the recent USGS effort related to coastal landscape response to sea-level rise assessment for the northeastern United States, which includes a report, website and data tools.


revised 6 February 2017


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