Identifying Areas Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise in Georgia

Issue

Like many coastal communities, the City of Tybee Island has been experiencing sea level rise for decades. To better prepare for and adapt to rising seas, the city needed an adaptation plan, as well as a tool to identify areas most vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise.

Process

The NOAA Sea Grant Community Climate Adaptation Initiative, which includes several partners, worked with the City of Tybee Island to identify the areas of the island most vulnerable to sea level rise using the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer. Once these areas were identified, a plan was developed for dealing with the current problems of flooding and frequent high tides, as well as future sea level rise. City staff members also used the visuals provided by the viewer at public meetings to display vulnerable areas and increase awareness of the impacts that future sea level rise could have on the community.

Impact

Using the information provided by the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer, the city has prioritized its action plan. The viewer showed the community that the causeway to the island, which is underwater already during spring tides, will be underwater with 1 foot of sea level rise above mean higher high water. Because the causeway is the only road to the island, addressing this concern was determined to be the first priority. The second priority was protecting the beachfront, and the third was bulk-heading and protecting the marsh buffers on the back of the island. Not only did the viewer show the areas most vulnerable to flooding, but it also provided a critical means for focusing the conversation on the local issues at Tybee during public meetings.


Tybee Island at current mean higher high water (left) and with 3 feet of sea level rise (right). Image credit: Jason Evans, University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government