Cost-Efficient Adaptation in the North Atlantic

This report summarizes the work of two NOAA-funded graduate fellows research on community-level coastal flood management and climate change adaptation best practices throughout the North Atlantic region (Virginia to Maine). This year-long Sea Grant partnership with NOAA’s North Atlantic Regional Team (NART) has identified low-cost, innovative ways that coastal communities are addressing climate change and related coastal hazard management best practices at the local level. The team looked at studies, laws, policies, outreach tools, and infrastructure investments that were voluntarily adopted by 34 local municipalities, and developed a report to share this information more broadly. 

Two main outreach information products are contained in this report:

1. List of local climate change and related coastal hazard management best practices - All potential best practices found during the research were included in a table with basic descriptive information.

2. Case studies - From these best practices, a set of towns were selected for case studies to document how a best practice got started and to report adaptation details using a cost-effectiveness perspective.

The report also includes an interactive map that shows the 34 municipalities and provides links to learn more about each location.

Adaptation practices were classified on a variety of dimensions including: Adaptation Strategy; Adaptation Practice; Adaptation Sub-Practice; Phase; Incorporation of Climate Change; Impact; and Standard.

Some of these adaptation efforts include building tall sand dunes to shield coastal towns from crashing waves and flooding. Other municipalities have restricted how close homes, hotels, and other beach-side buildings can be to the water, keeping new development safe from sea level rise. 

Best practices were defined as innovative initiatives aimed at increasing resilience to coastal flooding and storm-related hazards. These best practices range from a community’s efforts to decrease flood risk with systematic infrastructure designs, local climate adaptation plans, or legal mechanisms that support resilient development.

Additionally, the research aimed to identify best practice constraints or other unique conditions that determine how transferable a best practice is from one community to another. A primary goal of this work was to encourage a peer-to-peer network among community leaders to share climate change, sea level rise and flood management best practices.


Two to five municipalities in each state were chosen based on a literature review in coordination with a steering committee of experts from NOAA, Sea Grant, and NGOs. To be included in the study, communities had to be coastal, but varied significantly in geomorphology. Coastlines could include bays, harbors, open ocean shores, and sounds. Two of the sample communities were located entirely on barrier islands. Communities varied in size, from New York City with a population over 8 million, to Greenwich Township, New Jersey, just 100 miles away, with a population of about 800. The median population was 58,520.



Publication Date: October 2013

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Judd Schechtman
  • Michael Brady

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:

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