Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea-Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action

Co-developed by numerous state and regional agencies, Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea-Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action is an outline of six principles for coordinated planning and adaptation around sea-level rise (SLR) in the state of California. The principles call for all supporting agencies to adopt a minimum SLR estimate of 3.5 feet by 2050. This assumption aligns with concerns expressed in the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy that SLR will occur more quickly and severely than had originally been anticipated (new estimates anticipate California’s SLR reaching 7 feet or more by 2100)1. The principles include goals and objectives for agencies to implement resilience projects; use high-quality science; build resilience-based partnerships and communication networks; align policies across agencies; and support local resilience efforts. The guidelines aim to ensure that all of the state’s management, decisionmaking, and regulatory activities are “guided by a common, clear, and fundamental vision” to increase California’s coastal resilience and better adapt and prepare for climate change impacts.

The six principles outlined are non-regulatory guidelines for aligning and unifying numerous state agencies to ensure actions are coordinated and guided by a common vision. 

The six thematic principles are as follows:

  1. Develop and utilize the best available science: Agencies should apply this science to planning, decisionmaking, project design, and implementation. They should use more protective baseline SLR targets for critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems.
  2. Build coastal resilience partnerships: Agencies should partner and coordinate with state, federal, local, and tribal governmental bodies on SLR resilience issues by regularly collecting and sharing SLR information and strategies. Agencies should also seek to build strong, multicultural, and inclusive relationships with public, nonprofit, and business stakeholders.
  3. Improve coastal resilience communications: Agencies should align messaging on SLR and implement coordinated public awareness campaigns. In addition, they should seek to increase the transparency and efficiency of state and local resilience decisionmaking efforts.
  4. Support local leadership and address local conditions: Agencies should aim to learn from local conditions and support local priorities, economies, culture, infrastructure, and environments in their efforts to develop adaptation plans, projects, and strategies. In the process, they should also prioritize early protection of under-resourced and frontline communities.
  5. Strengthen alignment around coastal resilience: Agencies should develop and apply agreed-upon baseline SLR terms, projections, and targets. They should ensure alignment on vulnerability assessments and best-practice coastal resiliency strategies. They should collaborate on developing funding sources. And they should avoid unnecessary duplication of effort or authority.
  6. Implement and learn from coastal resilience projects: Agencies should protect natural coastal resources and biodiversity as well as critical water-dependent infrastructure, including ports and harbors. They should prioritize nature-based adaptation strategies, where appropriate. They should increase the number of adaptation projects and streamline high-need coastal restoration projects, while ensuring that the implementation of these projects will not shift hazards elsewhere. And they should work to prevent SLR from impacting public access to coastal areas.

Many agencies have officially signed on and agreed to follow these principles. As of June 2020, current participants include the California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, California Coastal Commission, California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, State Coastal Conservancy, State Lands Commission, Ocean Protection Council, State Parks, State Water Resources Control Board, and several others.

Publication Date: April 2020

Related Resources:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Agency guidance/policy
  • Best practice

States Affected:


Go To Resource