Upon review of ASFPM and CSO flood risk management policy guidance documents, including the ASFPM Foundation Holistic Coasts Report, ASFPM Coastal No Adverse Impact Handbook, ASFPM National Flood Programs and Policies in Review, CSO Guidelines on Beach and Inlet Management, and CSO Guidelines on Coastal Resiliency Planning and Adaptation, five overarching management principles were identified. The following are recommendations espoused by both ASFPM and CSO to improve coastal flood risk management policies and practices in the United States. Descriptions of how these management principles are applied at the state level are included in the Elements of Policy Goals/Management Principles sections of each State Coastal Flood Risk Management Case Study. Specific actions that can be taken to address each of these management principles are provided in the final section of this report, Holistic Coastal Flood Risk Management Objectives, Strategies, and Actions.

Increase capacity of state coastal zone management programs

An increased emphasis on state and local leadership is a critical aspect of improving coastal flood risk management. State coastal management programs are in a more advantageous position than federal agencies to provide guidance on multiple government functions essential to coastal flood risk management, including land use, building standards, and protection of coastal resources. Given this more effective coastal management toolset available to state governments, coastal management authorities at the state and local level are better equipped to address changing coastal hazards that will likely vary on a regional scale. Federal agencies can facilitate increased state capacity for coastal flood risk management by empowering effective state coastal management programs through additional technical, financial, and planning assistance. Additional, predictable funding from state, federal, or other entities should be made available to state coastal management programs in order to advance long-term community resiliency planning, coastal storm damage mitigation projects, and coordination with federal agencies. These actions would allow states to take greater ownership of local coastal flood risk management practices, making states less reliant on federal flood mitigation or disaster recovery and enabling regular updates of coastal management and hazard mitigation plans at scales relevant to local communities.

Policy goals

  • Increased state capacity to provide regular updates to coastal flood risk management plans
  • Increased technical assistance from federal agencies
  • Improved coordination mechanisms between coastal states and federal agencies
  • Development of additional consistent, long-term funding mechanisms for state coastal zone management programs

Explore alternatives to structural flood risk mitigation

In light of coastal development trends, changing coastal hazards, and increased understanding of the value of coastal ecosystems, it has become necessary for U.S. coastal management policies and practices to balance human use and ecological health in coastal regions. With this in mind, the tie between coastal economies and coastal ecosystems should be integrated into planning at multiple government levels, particularly when analyzing structural means of flood risk mitigation and alternative non-structural strategies. Hazard mitigation measures should also be evaluated in terms of both sustainability and potential conflict with natural processes. Where possible, non-structural practices incorporating principles of resilience and adaptability should be used, and structural mitigation strategies should take advantage of emerging green infrastructure technologies. A literature review of disaster risk reduction studies found that the most cost-effective forms of disaster risk reduction tend to be non-structural approaches, such as land use planning, warning systems, and household-level changes (Kelman 2013). Overall, flood risk mitigation strategies must recognize and further emphasize the link between flood damage reduction and the protection of coastal ecosystems. Restoration of natural resources will likely play a key role in forming cost-effective, long-term flood risk mitigation solutions and should be properly evaluated alongside traditional structural flood risk mitigation measures.

Policy goals

  • Increased use of non-structural flood risk mitigation measures
  • Further inclusion of ecological services in benefit/cost analyses of flood risk mitigation projects
  • Increased use of coastal natural resource restoration as a flood risk mitigation tool
  • Improved regulatory and permitting process for non-structural mitigation approaches

Implement long-term planning for flood risk

In order to move towards more resilient, sustainable coastal communities, coastal flood risk management policies and practices must promote long-term strategies that take into account the full range of current and potential future coastal hazards, including those risks that may emerge or be exacerbated by changing climate such as rising sea levels, changing water levels in the Great Lakes, increasing rates of erosion, and coastal storm intensification. Coastal resource protection should be integrated into such long-term planning efforts to help ensure long-term sustainable use of coastal resources and coastal ecosystem health. Additional investment in scientific expertise and data relating to coastal flood risk management will be necessary to more accurately quantify, forecast, and ultimately incorporate future flood risk into management policies and practices. An important element of this process will be collaborative federal agency investigations of significant future coastal flood events to effectively fill knowledge gaps and prevent overlap of data collection resources. Improved data on changing coastal hazards and risk should be made widely available, potentially through publicly accessible web resources, and visualization tools incorporating new data should be expanded to aid in disseminating any new information to coastal management professionals and residents of coastal communities. Uncertainty surrounding future projections of coastal hazards is likely to persist, and so agencies should make efforts to involve states and communities in flood risk mapping to communicate these uncertainties while employing measures such as the inclusion of freeboard to help account for potential unforeseen coastal flood risk. Issues relating to uncertainty in coastal flood risk management can also be addressed by shifting from a level of protection approach towards risk analysis, which is more transparent in terms incorporating uncertainty in management decisions.

Policy goals

  • Expanded coastal flood risk management planning horizons
  • Inclusion of coastal hazards due to changing climate in flood risk maps and plans
  • Expansion of information availability and visualization tools
  • Increased use of freeboard in coastal flood risk management plans
  • Increased use of risk analysis in coastal management decision making

Balance flood mitigation and disaster recovery costs

To form resilient coastal communities in an economically sustainable fashion, those that benefit from coastal management decisions should pay a share of the cost. Federal subsidies and financial incentives in the form of flood insurance premiums and disaster relief funds should be examined to identify any conflicts with the formation of resilient coastal communities, and future coastal management policies and practices should avoid financial incentives that encourage new development or redevelopment in potentially risky coastal zones. Any such incentives currently in place should be corrected, with a key step in this process being the adjustment of flood insurance subsidies towards true costs, thereby reducing the number of properties that experience repetitive flood losses. States and communities require some degree of accountability for their coastal management decisions to avoid a scenario where communities that make less investment in flood preparedness receive greater federal assistance than those communities that have been more diligent in planning to mitigate flood risk. A mechanism for increased accountability beyond the federal level could potentially be implemented in the form of a sliding scale for disaster assistance cost-shares between federal and state agencies based on initial flood preparedness. This and other accountability mechanisms should be evaluated in order to achieve a more equitable distribution of coastal management costs and responsibilities.

Policy goals

  • Increase cost-sharing between state and federal agencies for disaster recovery efforts
  • Adjust flood insurance premiums in high-risk coastal areas towards true costs
  • Reduce economic incentives that may encourage development in high-risk coastal areas

Develop a holistic approach to coastal flood risk management

A critical focus area for future coastal flood risk management is movement towards a broad-based, holistic, and comprehensive management approach that will remove the stove-pipes found in the current flood risk management framework. This will require coordination between environmental agencies across multiple levels of government as well as vertical and horizontal alignment of federal and state coastal flood risk management policies. To form this holistic management framework future flood risk management policies and practices should seek to identify and reduce federal-state institutional barriers. Potential conflicts between flood risk mitigation and disaster recovery policies in which communities may lack sufficient incentives to reduce flood risk to acceptable levels should also be reduced. Flexibility to account for varying regional coastal flood risk management concerns will be a key aspect of this framework along with increased public outreach and education to effectively communicate changes to coastal flood risk management policies and practices.

Policy goals

  • Improve coordination between state and federal coastal management agencies
  • Reduce stove-pipes in current coastal flood risk management framework
  • Improve vertical and horizontal alignment of federal and state coastal management policies
  • Identify and reduce conflicts between national flood mitigation and disaster recovery policies

Next section: Federal Coastal Flood Risk Management Policies and Programs