Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of Hawaii: Assessing the Feasibility and Implications of Managed Retreat Strategies for Vulnerable Coastal Areas in Hawaii

In February 2019, the State of Hawaii Office of Planning, Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP), published a report: Assessing the Feasibility and Implications of Managed Retreat Strategies for Vulnerable Coastal Areas in Hawaii (report). CZMP drafted the report in response to a request for the state to evaluate the potential for a managed retreat program in Hawaii. In developing the report, CZMP designed and implemented a three-phased approach that consisted of conducting background research; evaluating how retreat could apply in four different area typologies; and convening an interdisciplinary symposium to engage experts and stakeholders. As a result, CZMP concluded that it is not currently possible for Hawaii to develop a step-by-step plan to implement managed retreat for areas in the state threatened by sea-level rise and other coastal hazards; however, the report contains recommendations for potential next steps, including assembling an interdisciplinary committee to work towards achieving a statewide consensus about a managed retreat vision and efforts to formulate a retreat strategy. Both Hawaii’s three-phased approach and the final report provide helpful examples of how one state designed and implemented a comprehensive process led by its CZMP to evaluate the potential for retreat. These examples may inform planning and policy actions for managed retreat in other jurisdictions.


This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies. Each case study tells a different story about how states, local governments, and communities across the country are approaching questions about managed retreat. Together, the case studies highlight how different types of legal and policy tools are being considered and implemented across a range of jurisdictions — from urban, suburban, and rural to riverine and coastal — to help support new and ongoing discussions on the subject. These case studies are intended to provide transferable lessons and potential management practices for coastal state and local policymakers evaluating managed retreat as one part of a strategy to adapt to climate change on the coast. 

For additional case studies and more information about managed retreat, also see Georgetown Climate Center’s Managed Retreat Toolkit.

Publication Date: February 2019

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  • Best practice
  • Case study
  • Engagement
  • Plans (other)
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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