Shoreline Impacts, Setback Policy And Sea Level Rise
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Shoreline Impacts, Setback Policy And Sea Level Rise

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    The Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP), located within the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant College Program, provides science-based policy and planning research for decision-makers in Hawai'i and other island leaders. ICAP prepared this white paper at the request of Senator Shan Tsutsui, whose office sought a technical evaluation of Senate Bill 468 (relating to shoreline setbacks). ICAP finds that SB 468 as originally introduced would have a beneficial net impact on coastal resiliency for the State of Hawai'i. Creating coastal communities that are resilient to hazards (including tsunamis, hurricanes, flooding, erosion, and sea level rise) requires effective construction and siting measures. Construction standards through the National Flood Insurance Program and recent building code revisions have largely been scientifically based. Setbacks and siting policies, however, have traditionally been driven by social and political considerations, rather than technically based. Setback policies are changing at the county level, as they now track the relevant science. The Maui Shoreline Setback Rule utilizes the Average Annual Erosion Rate ("AAER") developed by the University of Hawai'i. The new Kaua'i Shoreline Setback uses the AAER times a planning period of 70 to 100 years, which represents the life expectancy of structures. The Kaua'i rule, also requires a 10% adjustment in the AAER for future sea level rise in some cases. Recently, Hawaii County also addressed future sea level rise by using the existing authority in their subdivision regulations to require design for subsidence and a two-foot rise in water level over the next 100 years. A review of setback rules adopted by other US states is also provided in this report. The most significant rule, Maine's Dune Rules, requires that for structures greater than 2,500 square feet, the structure cannot be threatened by the future shoreline considering migration and a twofoot sea level rise in the next 100 years. SB 468, therefore, represents an opportunity for the State of Hawai'i to join other states that adopt science-based setbacks and encourage coastal community resilience. Sea levels are clearly rising, although we cannot be certain of the rate. Forward-‚Äčthinking county and state-level jurisdictions are making today's planning decisions based on the best available scientific information. Because our state is so vulnerable to hazards, adaptation design should be addressed during all stages of development and as early as possible in the development process.
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