The Earth's changing climate is one of coastal Georgia’s greatest environmental challenges. It is critical that preparations to adapt and reduce our vulnerabilities to the inevitable changes be initiated. Georgia’s coastal areas will be among the first to experience the effects of climate change. The region has already experienced rising sea levels that have increased 3mm/year over the past 70 years. During that time, rates of residential and infrastructure development along coastal Georgia’s waterways have increased significantly, resulting in more persons and property at risk. Five of the past 12 years has seen the region in major drought which was associated with decreased shrimp and crab landings, increased coastal salinity, salt marsh dieback and saltwater intrusion into drinking water systems.
Although coastal hazards is a fairly new issue area for the Georgia Coastal Management Program (GCMP), there has been a significant shift in focus over the last two years. There has been a high demand from educators, researchers, local, state and federal governments for more data, information and planning.
The GCMP has established Specialty Areas of study, which were developed based on regional and national priorities. One specialty area that has been developed is Coastal Hazards including Climate Change/Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Georgia, which will address many of the needs in this category. Since this change, staff has submitted several grant applications for climate related projects, sits on several climate change steering committees at a local, state, and national levels; including the Governors’ South Atlantic Alliance.
The Coastal Incentive Grant program has helped the GCMP mission in funding coastal hazard grants that have increased our knowledge and resources. Some examples are as follows:
- Planning for Sea-Level Rise
- Coastal Hazards Portal
- Coastal Elevation Project
Through partnerships with the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and Georgia SeaGrant, the GCMP hosted a Preparing for Climate Change workshop for local governments, non-formal educators, and NGO’s.
The GCMP also partnered with the Coastal Services Center to make Savannah, GA a pilot project in kicking off the CSC’s Roadmap to Coastal Hazards workshop.
Georgia Disaster Recovery and Redevelopment Plan
A sense of complacency exists among many coastal Georgia residents due to the fact that the coast has not been hit by a major storm in many years. However, GCMP is well aware of the importance of creating disaster resilient communities and the need to incorporate long-term planning for natural disasters into state and local management processes. Currently, gaps exist in education, policies, data and research; all of which are deemed a high priority for the GCMP.
It is critical that preparations be initiated to adapt and reduce our vulnerabilities to the inevitable natural disaster and potential change from sea-level rise. At present, GCMP completed a document to guide the coast in community redevelopment after a major natural disaster (e.g. building setbacks, building repair restrictions, shoreline hardening or retreat, and redevelopment of publicly funded infrastructure). The guide also evaluates the need for new or revised state policies on the post-disaster repair and rebuilding of permitted piers, docks, and marinas. This model document can be used as a guidance document to prepare post-disaster redevelopment plans for the entire 11 coastal county area, the Coastal Regional Commission, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and other stakeholders.
Final Outcome(s) and Products
- A guidance document for state and local governments on post-disaster redevelopment planning. This guide addresses issues related to coastal storms, sea-level rise, and marine debris hazards. To view the guidance document, please click here!
- Two pilot community post-disaster redevelopment plans.
- Education and outreach for coastal Georgia on how to develop and implement a post-disaster redevelopment plan.
- Evaluate existing state and local hazard mitigation plans in Georgia as well as post-disaster redevelopment plans in other states and identify policy restrictions and potential solutions to those restrictions.
- Prepare a model post-disaster redevelopment plan for coastal counties and local communities in coastal Georgia that can be used as a template for the 11 coastal county area.
- Select one ocean-facing coastal community and one inland coastal community to pilot the development of a post-disaster redevelopment plan.
- Provide assistance to pilot communities to complete and initiate implementation of the plan.
- Initiate education and outreach among coastal counties on how to use the plan.
- Draft guidance document that includes model plan and findings/lessons learned from pilot community projects.
- Plan and conduct workshop for local governments on post-disaster redevelopment planning.