Journal Article

Managing shoreline retreat: a US perspective

Apr 1, 2014 | Carolyn Kousky


As sea level rises, coastal communities will face increased risks of flooding, storm surge, and inundation. In some areas, structural protective measures will be built, and for some properties, accommodation to sea level rise may be possible. For other areas, however, some form of retreat will be either preferred on economic or sociopolitical grounds or required given fiscal constraints. This paper considers how society can proactively manage shoreline retreat in those locations where it is deemed the preferable policy. A three-part strategy is proposed: (1) reduce new development in the highest-risk areas; (2) adopt policies that allow for expected and orderly removal or modification of development as inundation occurs; and (3) take advantage of disasters to implement managed retreat approaches. Specific policies are recommended and the challenges of institutional change discussed.