State and Local Governments Plan for Development of Most Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level along the U.S. Atlantic Coast

Based on the analysis of planning data and current policies of 131 state and local land use plans from Massachusetts to Florida, the study identifies those coastal areas likely to be affected by rising water levels and classifies them based on the extent of development already in place and the potential for future development. The report explains that the existing extensive development on the Atlantic coast creates the need for coastal protective structures, which could negatively impact wetlands. The study finds that almost 60 percent of the Atlantic coastal lands below 1m are targeted for development, and would thus be unavailable to assist in wetland migration. Individual state findings are presented.

The authors also note that the maps in this study can serve as an initial benchmark for evaluating the environmental consequences of the 'business-as-usual' response to sea-level rise and possible alternatives that would better preserve the environment and comply with the law. They can also be used to focus efforts on the 30 percent of low-lying land that is neither developed nor classified as conservation land.

The authors indicate they wrote this document in 2009 out of concern for the Army Corps of Engineers' failure to consider the impact of climate change when it assessed the potential impact of shoreline protection structures on coastal habitats under its Clean Water Act authority.

Publication Date: October 27, 2009

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • J.G. Titus
  • D.E. Hudgens
  • D.L. Trescott
  • M. Craghan
  • W.H. Nuckols
  • C.H. Hershner
  • J.M. Kassakian
  • C.J. Linn
  • P.G. Merritt
  • T.M. McCue
  • J.F. O'Connell
  • J. Tanski
  • J. Wang


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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