Sea Level Rise in the Tampa Bay Region

The Tampa Bay region on the west coast of Florida has nearly 700 miles of shoreline susceptible to climate accelerated sea level rise. This draft report provides an overview of the sea level rise projections as understood in 2006, and describes federal, state and local level policies that relate to sea level rise planning. Maps were developed for each of the region’s four counties to demonstrate potential sea level rise projections, along with wetland mapping and “protection scenarios” delineating the likelihood of structural defensive measures (hard or soft) for the remaining coastline.

The report opens with a review of “current” policies in coastal management including a summary of federal policies that can relate to the effects of sea level rise. The federal policies discussed include those within the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act and the National Flood Insurance Act. 

The report further describes the Florida coastal guidelines that cover beach management policies which can be used to respond to sea level rise. These state level programs include the Coastal Construction Line Program, the Beach Erosion Control Program, and Coastal Building Zone and Strategic Beach Management Plans.

All of the Tampa Bay region’s counties have coastal management elements in their comprehensive plans, and within these elements each of the counties have goals, objectives, and/or policies related to sea level rise issues. The four counties of the Tampa Bay region - Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties - all have objectives that consider coastal “high hazard areas” in their comprehensive plans, which are listed in the report.   

The study produced sea level rise projection maps for the region. The protection scenarios in the maps that accompany this study illustrate the areas that planners within this region expect will be protected, or not protected, from erosion and inundation in the future. The scenarios depict the likelihood of coastal areas to be protected from sea level rise with hard or soft structural defensive measures.  

Coastal communities surrounding Tampa Bay are low-lying, densely-populated and therefore vulnerable to sea-level rise. The Tampa Bay region has nearly 700 miles of shoreline, much of which runs along Tampa Bay which covers 398 square miles at high tide. The bay supports one of the world’s most productive natural systems, and the estuary is designated as an Estuary of National Significance. The estuarine environment, with the mixing of fresh and salt water, provides the ecosystems and the natural communities that support a diverse group of marine wildlife, including over 200 species of fish and 25 species of shore and wading birds.

This report was prepared by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. The Council was contracted by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, through a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to participate in a nationwide project promoting awareness of, and planning for, sea level rise.


Publication Date: August 14, 2006

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