Adaptation to sea-level rise (SLR) typically begins with a vulnerability assessment, progresses to policy development, and finally moves into implementation. While many communities in the United States and around the world have begun or completed vulnerability analysis, far fewer have developed SLR policies and even fewer have reached the stage of implementing SLR policies. This section, which is currently under development and being further populated as time permits, provides resources and links for examples of SLR policy development and implementation.

1.) SLR and Satellite Beach, Florida. While the phenomenon of SLR is global, impacts are local and adaptation to SLR is an inherently local process. Different communities have different impacts, different resources, different perspectives, and differing values structures. These and other factors contribute to how a community looks at the future and envisions the community’s adaptation. While many communities currently focus primarily or exclusive on protective strategies involving massive–and expensive–gray infrastructure and more nature-based green infrastructure, some smaller- and medium-sized communities understand that financial limitations will prevent them from relying exclusively on costly infrastructure when confronted with rising seas. These communities understand that they need creativity and foresight to address the impacts they can, maximize the quality of life for their residents for the longest time possible, and plan for the most graceful exit possible from areas that are not physically or fiscally viable to maintain. Satellite Beach, Florida represents one of the leading small (pop. ~10,000) towns in Florida thinking carefully about its long-term future on a barrier island. Florida Sea Grant worked with Stetson University and with Erin L. Deady, P.A to develop an updated vulnerability assessment for Satellite Beach and then develop policy recommendations based on the results. The policy recommendations represent Satellite Beach’s unique focus on ensuring that policy and planning decisions emphasize: 1) helping citizens understand the physical drivers of change, 2) the financial constraints the City works within, 3) a focus on protecting people and property from flood damage, 4) inclusion of processes to protect citizens’ rights to be heard, 5) minimizing policies that might create “moral hazard,” and 6) providing notice to property owners of the possible changes to Satellite Beach and its infrastructure as far in advance as possible to allow property owners to plan accordingly. The policy recommendations appear here.

2.) Seawalls & Flooding in Fort Lauderdale.  The City of Fort Lauderdale, facing high-tide flooding in many areas, wanted to address areas that flooded at high tide due to one or just a few sub-standard seawalls that allowed water into an area. The case study, starting on page 4 of the Seawall flooding and Fort LauderdaleFlorida Bar’s Environmental & Land Use Law Section’s June 2017 Reporter, examines the innovative approach taken by Fort Lauderdale of citing the owners–public and private–of properties that allow sea water to flow off of them and flood other properties.

3.) Pinellas County: Incorporating Sea-Level Rise into Capital Improvements Programs.  As a peninsular county in the larger peninsula of Florida, Pinellas County understands the risks that sea-level rise poses to current and future infrastructure. Pinellas County has become a leader through several years of work to create a careful methodology for integrating consideration of sea-level rise into planning for large capital projects. As of February 2019, Pinellas County used the custom, multi-sheet spreadsheet “Guidance for Incorporating Sea Level Rise into Capital Planning in Pinellas County” combined with the county’s manual “Guidance for Incorporating Sea Level Rise into Capital Improvement Programs” to assist the county in assuring that large capital outlays appropriately consider sea-level rise over the future of the project.  

4.) Sea-level rise language in comprehensive plans in Florida. In 2015 Florida passed a law that for the first time requires that sea-level rise be part of the comprehensive plan. The bill modified Florida Statute section 163.3178(2)(f). This section has long required that coastal management elements of comprehensive plans include a “redevelopment component which outlines the principles which shall be used to eliminate inappropriate and unsafe development in the coastal areas when opportunities arise. The 2015 change now requires that this also ”include development and redevelopment principles, strategies, and engineering solutions that reduce the flood risk in coastal areas which results from high-tide events, storm surge, flash floods, stormwater runoff, and the related impacts of sea-level rise.” (emphasis added)

As Florida local governments begin to address this in updates to their comprehensive plans, Florida Sea Grant presents a resource of existing local government language related to sea-level rise in comprehensive plans. The draft work, available here, was funded in part by a grant from the Houston Endowment for inclusion in a larger report by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi on sea-level rise to be released in 2016. As such, all rights to the work are reserved to the Houston Endowment, and this early work is made available by permission.

The draft  available here is a living document that Florida Sea Grant seeks your help in making more useful. If you know of comprehensive plan language or ordinances not included in this work, please contact Thomas Ruppert at so that it can be included in this work.

5.) Miami considering SLR in infrastructure. One of the first and most basic steps a local government can take when adapting to sea-level rise is to begin by getting the local government’s own house in order. This starts with ensuring that new infrastructure and decisions about management of the local government’s own property properly account for sea-level rise. This resolution from Miami-Dade County provides an example of such language.

6.) Miami Beach Case Study. Miami Beach research case study indicates that since 2006 in Miami Beach, “rain-induced [flood] events increased by 33% and tide-induced events increased by more than 400%.” The article goes on to examine evidence that sea levels have risen much, much faster in Miami Beach than either current or previous global averages. The study notes that “average pre-2006 rate [of sea-level rise] is 3 ± 2 mm/yr, similar to the global long-term rate of SLR, whereas after 2006 the average rate of SLR in Southeast Florida rose to 9 ± 4 mm/yr.” The authors conclude that this decadal-scale increase in SLR indicates that planning for SLR adaptation in southeast Florida should use regional SLR data rather than global averages. The full article is available here.

7.) Adaptation Action Areas in Satellite Beach. Satellite Beach, Florida, a relatively small town on a barrier island on Florida’s east coast south of Cape Canaveral, has distinguished itself by being the first municipality in the State of Florida to have added “Adaptation Action Areas,” as described in state statute, into its comprehensive plan. This was a challenging process for the town as ardent supporters and vociferous opponents often worked against each other. A member of the town’s Citizen’s Planning Advisory Board (CPAB) provided Florida Sea Grant with a three-page summary of the actions leading up to adoption of the comprehensive plan amendment that includes sea-level rise and Adaptation Action Areas (AAAs). The case study is available here. The difficulty of incorporating sea-level rise and AAAs into the comp plan has not ended the work in Satellite Beach; on-going work at the local level seeks to implement the general guidance and wording incorporated into the local comp plan.

8.) City of Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan (2009), available here: Punta_Gorda_Adaptation_Plan. This detailed and very long document meticulously documents the processes used by the City of Punta Gorda, Florida’s Southwest Regional Planning Council, and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program used to assess vulnerability and communicate with stakeholders. The Plan can be useful to see the array of potential impacts from climate change that a local government in Florida may face.After extensively reviewing possible impacts from various levels of storm surge and flooding, the Plan goes on to list specific adaptations possible for the community.

9.)  Florida’s Southeast Climate Compact (Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties). The Southeast Climate Compact (Compact) recently released its “Regional Climate Change Action Plan” (available here).The Compact represents a cutting-edge effort on the part of the involved counties to address the large-scale issues of climate change adaptation through regional climate adaptation. The draft document contains Regional Plan Recommendations on: Sustainable Community and Transportation Planning; Water Supply Management and Infrastructure; Energy and Fuel; Natural Systems and Agriculture; and Outreach and Public Policy. Member counties of the Compact have repeatedly emphasized the great value of the Compact in bringing together such a large population that the Compact is able to garner nation-wide attention and compete effectively with states for funding to undertake adaptation actions. In addition, they note involvement in the Compact has kept climate change adaptation at the forefront of local action even as political winds and popular opinion has varied.

10.)  Relocation Case Study. Relocation inland and away from coastal storms often comes forward as a suggestion for adapting to sea-level rise. How realistic is it to think that relocation will take place in Florida? We present here a short cases study that examines a part of Longboat Key on Florida’s west coast, just south of Tampa Bay. The case study demonstrates how relocation formed part of how property owners on Longboat Key used to address coastal erosion and some of the changes that altered this pattern. The short 2 and a 1/2-page case study is available here: Longboat Key Case Study.