Accelerated Erosion and Sea Level Rise, The Case for Adaptive Policies

Abstract

What happens when a shoreline experiences 50 years of erosion in a matter of months? Or 50 years of sea level rise in 2 days due to increase in tide range? Do coastal zone management policies designed to respond to decadal processes adequately and fairly address situations of accelerated erosion and sea level rise? Two categories of cases have been identified. Type I cases are those with a history of stability with periods of accelerated erosion or sea level rise returning to stability. Examples presented are Pleasant Bay in Cape Cod and Siasconset Beach on Nantucket Island. Type II cases are those with accelerated cycles of erosion or sea level rise returning to historical cycles of accretion. Example presented is Plum Island, Mass. In these cases of short and mid-term cyclic processes, adaptive policies are proposed that would allow more aggressive actions that might be suitable to save existing structures and reduce property loss and subsequent litigation while fully protecting resource values.