Costs of Defending Against Rising Sea Levels and Flooding in Mid-Atlantic Metropolitan Coastal Areas

This assessment identifies the potential costs of continually rising ocean levels and associated flooding, specifically on the mid-Atlantic Coast.  Metropolitan areas are susceptible to detriment on many levels, such as severe property damage and loss of natural resources, from sea level rise and related inundation and extreme weather events. This paper addresses what it would cost to minimize or eliminate such damage.

The rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic coast are described for the past and projected future.  A “sinking land effect” for the region is explained, and must be added to the projected sea level rises in order to determine the total tidal increase that will be observed in impacted mid-Atlantic Coast metropolitan areas. Because approximately 30 million people live in the region on land less than one meter above monthly highest tides, the rising sea levels combined with sinking land have serious economic implications.

The author, James Koch (Professor of Economics and President Emeritus at Old Dominion University) asks what can be done to combat these impacts and what it will cost. The report explains the economic impact of beach replenishment, as an example of common practice in holding back the effects of a rising ocean, as well as other sea defenses are described. Economic impacts on several cities such as Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News, are also reviewed.

The study determines the approximate costs attached to defending coastal lands against flooding (in 2009 dollars) range from about $10 million to $50 million per mile if significant, credible sea defenses are initiated in the region. Maintenance costs average 5 to 10 percent of these amounts and environmental costs attached to such actions augment these costs as well.  Koch concludes that "the unavoidable bottom line with respect to the costs of sea defense mechanisms is that they are expensive".

Publication Date: 2010

Author or Affiliated User:

  • James V. Koch

Related Organizations:

  • Old Dominion University


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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