EVST 255: Environmental Politics and Law
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Environmental Politics and Law
EVST 255 - Lecture 20 - Managing Coastal Resources in an Era of Climate Change
Chapter 1. Growth of Coastal Zone Population; Management Strategies [00:00:00]
Professor John Wargo: So I want to continue talking today about land use and the special problem that we face in managing land use and development in the coastal zone. Why the coastal zone? Well, for several really important reasons. One is that it’s under enormous development pressure. People often want to live in urban areas. They often want to live in coastal environments. But also, a coastal zone is experiencing increased risk of damage from storms, sea level rise, and increased pollution that’s also associated with density. So I want to talk today about the variety of strategies that might be used to control development in the coastal zone. So I thought I’d start out with a little cartoon. Good news, at the current rate of global warming, we should be able to just swim over there and eat them in under five years.
So within the world, 640, 650 million people live in the coastal zone that are at some risk of property loss or injury from intense storms. And the ten countries with the largest number of people living in vulnerable low-elevation coastal zones include China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the U.S., Thailand and the Philippines. So that the overwhelming majority of people that live in the coastal zone in the world do not have the capacity to manage the hazards that they face. And the variety of legal and economic strategies that might be used to prevent serious damage is the subject of the lecture.
So the growth of cities in the coastal zone is a significant issue to pay attention to. So that on average, coastal cities are growing twenty percent faster than any other cities in the world. And they have ten to fifteen percent higher densities than other cities. And of the twenty megacities in the world, fifteen of them are in coastal areas. Now, within the U.S., we have a statute called the Coastal Zone Management Act. And the act is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And it provides for management of the nation’s coastal zones as well as the resources found there. And it includes the Great Lakes, as well as the sea coast. And it’s designed to balance economic development and promote economic development at the same time that it promotes environmental conservation. So it has a tension built into the mission statement of the statute.
Now, there was great debate within the Nixon Administration about the structure of this statute and what kind of teeth would be put into it. Should the federal government get involved in the regulation of land use, the way that the State of New York got involved in the regulation of private land use in the Adirondacks? And there were forces inside the Nixon Administration, Republican administration, you’ll recall, that argued quite extensively that we needed to protect land areas in the coastal zone and that the cost to the nation in terms of bearing liability and responsibility for rebuilding damaged areas was growing and was going to be potentially overwhelming. So that the overall objectives are conflicting and include the phrase, “preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation’s coastal zone.”
We also have a coincidental statute that’s created the National Flood Insurance Program. But that program is now essentially bankrupt. So the Federal Flood Insurance Program faces major financial difficulties, particularly as the Gulf Coast recovers. It’s essentially bankrupt. The Federal Emergency Management Agency officials estimate that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita together would result in flood insurance claims of about twenty-three billion dollars. Well it turns out that when you total up the costs of emergency response, property restoration, the healthcare requirements associated with these two storms, it’s not twenty three billion dollars, it’s in the hundreds of billions of dollars that the U.S. government expended. So should coastal property be insured by the public sector? What kinds of alternatives might there be? And the Federal Flood Insurance Program has encouraged people to build in the coastal areas that are at risk, and it offers them a subsidized low rate of insurance. So that in the event of storm damage, property damage, flooding, the government steps in and basically provides low-cost insurance so people rebuild.
So what are the variety of management strategies that you might use, the different kinds of legal instruments? Well, there are certain questions that you might address. You know, how should we go about protecting open lands in the coastal area? Should they be public? Should they be private? Should we employ land use regulation? Should it be managed by local governments as it traditionally has been through much of the twentieth century? State governments? Or should the federal government step in? And I’ll give you a couple of examples over the next 45 minutes that will show you how the federal government has stepped in and applied eminent domain to purchase up open areas and resources that the government thought were particularly valuable, not just because of their ecological characteristics, but also because they provided recreational opportunities, particularly in the vicinity of these population centers.
So insurance, whether or not the insurance program should be continued, whether or not the subsidies should be removed, this is an open question. How about transferable development rights? I’ll speak about this in a few moments, but the idea behind transferable development rights is that you have a source zone. So that if a zone is set up, a zoning scheme is set up and one area is more restricted to limit development than another area, the restricted area might have some sort of a scheme where they could transfer a credit to develop to another area or a receiving zone. So you might think about it as having a sending zone and a receiving zone. So that if you are restricted, you can’t build on your property because you’re lying within a flood plain, you’re lying say adjacent to a wetland or next to the shoreline, then you don’t lose your property value. So that this idea of transferable development rights does an end run around the question about compensation. So that it avoids the possibility of litigation based upon the Fifth Amendment that we described, went through on Tuesday.
So thinking about — you see, I’ve repeated insurance twice here. Thinking about the idea of easements. So that the government could go into an area and buy up some of the development rights but not all of it. So the complete bundle of rights might be broken up into bits and pieces. You could also imagine a statute that would employ a variety of different tax schemes. They might be property tax related, so that property taxes could be elevated in areas that are especially valuable. And they might be lower in areas that are further away from the coast, outside of the hazard zone.
And you might think also about income tax credits. I mean, what if you received an income tax credit when you purchased property that was in a low-risk area? Or in an area that had lower resource values? And also, the idea of payment for ecosystem services. Now, what would that mean? What are ecosystem services? Well, I mean, the coastal zone in its natural condition plays many different roles. And I’ll show you some photos in a moment that demonstrate the flood storage capacity, but also the biological diversity is often higher in coastal areas.
And also recreational opportunities, marine fisheries, the commercial value of the coastal zone is extremely important. Nearly seventy-five percent of marine fisheries that are commercially caught spend some portion of their life in coastal estuaries, in wetlands areas. And many of the coastlines of the United States, they’re ringed by thin bands of sand that are known as barrier islands. And these barriers basically act to protect the inland areas from intense storm damage. So that thinking about the variety of protective services and recreational and commercial opportunities in addition to the property value opportunities that most local governments are looking at. And why would that be? Well local governments get their primary source of tax revenue to offer all of their services predominately based upon the valuation of property. So as development increases in any town, in any municipality, it offers increased opportunity for a local or a municipal government to secure additional taxes.
So payments for ecosystem services. Now what might that be? Well, supposing you have someone who wants to develop in a wetland area, and you have created a regulation or a statute that offers specific protection of wetlands. And wetlands are protected in the United States under the Clean Water Act if they’re adjacent to a navigable waterway. But many states have also adopted their own protective wetland statutes. And many local governments have also filed suit. So these areas that are seasonally wet or marshy or parts of estuaries, they get special legal attention in the United States.
So now imagine that you decided that you wanted to curtail any future development in a wetland or an endangered species habitat or in a flood zone. Well, basically, if somebody wanted to develop there, you might give them a credit so that they could do that. They may have to pay extra. And that money could go into a bank, basically an ecosystem service bank. And there are now banks that have been created in the United States and in different parts of the world where developers are developing in sensitive areas, they’re allowed to do that. But they have to pay into this bank and then that money is used to restore resources that have been degraded, perhaps in the same watershed, perhaps in the same municipality. Or the funds might be used to purchase land to offer greater protection. And the trade is rarely conducted on an acre per acre or hectare per hectare basis. Normally, you require the developer to pay for protection at some multiple of the scale of the original development. So it might be a one for three, or one for four acre trade. The developer gets to develop one acre but then he’s literally financing the protection of another area. So this form of credit creation and purchase and banking is becoming much more common around the world.
And if you think about the similarity to this between the cap in trade idea that we discussed when we were talking about the Clean Air Act and the sulfur dioxide provisions. Remember that in the Ohio Valley and up through the northeastern United States, you had this cap put on CO2 emission allowances for all the power plants. And that allowed a trading scheme to evolve so that as the ceiling for total allowable SO2 diminished, it made the allowances much more valuable. So that those that emitted the lowest levels of SO2 received credits that they could then sell to those industries that wanted to keep polluting, they didn’t want to invest in the technology, perhaps a scrubber. So this idea is very similar to what’s being discussed with respect to carbon trading, but also it has great similarity to these other concepts about ecosystem services. So that the underlying requirement is there has to be some sort of a legal threshold that’s easily identifiable, and some sort of a trading formula that is set up in order for these to be functional.
Chapter 2. Thinking about Vulnerabilities With Principles of Ecology [00:13:26]
So here is a suite of different kinds of management alternatives. Now, as you think about the vulnerability of property and life in the coastal zone, I want you to be thinking about it ecologically. I want you to think about what principles of ecology or understanding of ecosystems and how they’re structured and function and how they change over time, what principles should you have in mind as you’re thinking about selection among these different strategies? And I think that one of the intellectual pioneers of this idea of tying the science of ecology with law that would somehow control the way that we use land, it was pioneered by Ian McHarg, a relatively famous landscape architect at the University of Pennsylvania, and the individual that really I give credit to for inspiring me to do what I do with my life.
Now, I want you to think just carefully about population concentrations in the United States. Just swirling quickly here, here’s Boston, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, New York City, this is San Francisco. So think about the density of property and population that lives in the coastal zone. So that if you calculate the proportion of the U.S. population that lives in coastal counties, it’s now over fifty percent of the U.S. population that lives in these shaded areas. And the areas of most rapid growth include the northeastern part of the U.S., particularly southern New Hampshire and Cape Cod. Also, Long Island, but parts of Maryland. And also Florida. And Florida is experiencing just a continued enormous growth. Twenty-five percent of the vacation homes in the United States are now owned in Florida.
And I’m going to pause here, and I hope that this works. I’m going to pause here to see if I can call up Google Earth. Because many of you perhaps have not been to Florida. But I’ll take you on just a very quick Google Earth Cook’s tour of the coastline. First starting out in the Miami Beach area, and here, as we zoom in, you begin to see the intensity of development, but you also are looking at a barrier island. This is one of those thin strands of sand, in this case, maybe a quarter to a third of a mile in width, that in its natural form it buffers the energy from waves and storms so that that energy doesn’t normally affect the bay shore over here. So that this barrier island wants to migrate in a landward direction.
So this poses a really interesting kind of a legal problem. If you’re managing the development of an Adirondack mountain, you don’t have the same ecological dynamic going on as you do here. Because this is basically just a big pile of sand, and it’s shaped by wind, it’s shaped by waves. And basically, it literally wants to roll over itself in a landward direction. So if you take a look at say Cape Hatteras or Assateague Island or some of the other national parks that have been established on these barrier islands, you’ll actually see them migrating in a landward direction, often at a rate of maybe two to four to five feet per year, depending upon storm intensity. And in a natural condition, in the bay, you would see wetlands and it would be a very active nursery for a variety of commercial marine species, as I mentioned earlier.
But as you zone in, what you can see here is the property values in urban areas have just gone so high that the intensity of development is really quite remarkable. So that Miami Beach, of course you have the hotels right on the beach with the cabanas on the beach. As you move further north, you see that the sandy area was transformed into a golf course. And over here in the Sunset Islands area, just think about what this used to be. This used to be a salt marsh. And the salt marsh was basically transformed by dredging up the wetland areas, the estuary, and piling up that soil and bringing in concrete and other materials to create these remarkable little communities. So people are able to drive to these communities and also park their boats there. So that each one of these artificial islands has created roughly seventy-five to a hundred different lots at an average price, selling price, in the 1970s, ’80s, and 1990s, that was approaching a million dollars. So just to buy the property alone, regardless of the cost of building, would cost a million dollars. So that developers were given the license to basically do what they wanted on the barrier islands.
And if you look further north along the Florida coastline, you see that the majority of Florida’s coastline has these barrier islands on it. So I was going to take you on a flight over this. I don’t know if any of you have played with the flight simulator on Google. But I decided against doing that in the lecture because I end up spending more time underwater with the plane than on the surface. But here you can see the barriers, variable in intensity. But Miami Beach is probably the most intensely developed barrier island in the U.S., if not the world. So I’ll pause and back out of this and head back to the lecture. And also, the development in California, in the southern part of the state, is some of the most rapid that we’ve seen. Although the recent housing crisis has slowed that.
Chapter 3. The Cape Cod Case: Private Property and Eminent Domain [00:19:53]
Now, I want you to think also a bit about technological solutions, because there are many. Many engineering solutions to protect against loss of life. And following a very intense storm where tens of thousands of people lost their life in Great Britain and also the Netherlands back in the early 1950s, a project was initiated called the Delta Works. And the Delta Works basically built sea walls and dikes that those in the Netherlands are quite famous for. And they’re very effective. So here’s the largest sea wall in the world. It’s triggered, it closes automatically when the sea level rises up a certain number of feet. And here’s the Thames barrier, designed to protect London against flooding from severe storms as well. So that there are a variety of different technological solutions that are extraordinarily expensive. But given the property value that exists and is at risk in the coastal zone, these are likely to be in our future in U.S. urban areas.
And think for a moment about Hurricane Katrina. Again, the low bound projection of the cost is roughly, cost of loss to the public, 200 billion dollars. The high bound is closer to a half of a trillion dollars. And part of the loss was associated with the failure of the U.S. Corps of Engineers to make a decision that would raise the level of the dike that would be protective for a category five hurricane. They decided, when they were choosing among different structural design alternatives, they decided that they would build a sea wall that would be protective only for a category three to four storm, the reason being that they had the authority to make that decision by balancing costs versus benefits. So they reduced everything to cost versus benefit, and they basically concluded that the probability of a category five, a worst-case scenario, was exceptionally low. Here’s an example of that dike breaking through and the school bus on the bottom being flooded over.
Now, a different approach to this, rather than using high tech solutions that are really expensive, was being pursued by the U.S. back in the 1960s and ’70s, a legal strategy that evolved in Congress to create a variety of new national parks that were then called national seashores. So Cape Cod, for example, was one of the first national seashores after Cape Hatteras. And so that you can imagine there were these private lands. And the government was trying to figure out, well, how can effectively create a new national park in an area of private land or an area that may be private land or county land, state lands? So there’s really a complex mixture of different public and private ownership pattern, but no federal presence prior to 1961 to ‘63. So the Park Service was given the authority by Congress. This is John F. Kennedy, who signed the statue and his family being famous for their home in Hyannis on Cape Cod. The family has been very protective of land use and development on Cape Cod. And conservation groups have long thought that this was an area worthy of federal protection. So that the Park Service was given the money and the authority by Congress to go in and buy up the land on Cape Cod, or part of the land on Cape Cod. And they decided to do that in a very interesting way. They decided to exclude areas such as the village centers, whereas they would buy up the coastal areas that offered A) the most recreational opportunity. Interestingly, they also had the highest property value, so that they were in a sense the most controversial.
So recreational opportunity, maintaining the possibility of public access to the beach, which in New England and in the eastern part of the U.S. is extremely difficult to get to. So if you try to get to the beach in coastal communities here in Connecticut, you often have a hard time getting there, because you’ve got house after house after house, and you’ve got fences put up. So that even though the State of Connecticut has adopted its own law that demands public access, this is no way close to the ethic and culture of public access that evolved in California, as well as in Oregon and in parts of Washington. So that different parts of the country have these different cultural predispositions to allow public access. So one way to think about this problem is to think about which private lands does the Park Service really want to own? Do they really want to buy up somebody’s house or do they want to buy up a commercial shopping center? Or do they want airports inside the park or outside the park? So there are many difficult decisions that have to be made if you decide that you’re going to use the power of eminent domain to go in and create a new national seashore or a new national park.
So this was all occurring, by the way, in an era when climate change concern was pretty much nonexistent, back in the 1960s. But it actually was quite farsighted as a legal strategy that we might learn lessons from today about how we could manage other areas in the U.S. that are relatively undeveloped. And if you look also at the ecological characteristics of the coastline here, you can see the same kind of barrier spit, but in the natural form that existed down in Miami, at Miami Beach, before that was intensively developed. Obviously, the density is much, much lower here than Miami Beach. But it gives you a sense of what an ecosystem like this would look like in a relatively undisturbed form. So that the national seashore now extends all the way to the tip of Cape Cod up to Provincetown and includes about six communities with the most intensively developed areas excluded from it.
Now the Cape Cod formula for land protection was curious, because it gave the government the power to use eminent domain to go in and take private property. And eminent domain means that they would be compensated for their value loss. And it was kind of curious, because many property owners realized that boy, now that people understood that the Park Service was buying up private lands, property values were going through the roof. So whenever anybody wants to preserve land and they have to buy up a number of parcels, then it really pays the last holdout, because property value is going to be highest. And also, these rates of property value increase were occurring at about fifty percent per year. So many people took the Park Service to court and said, “No, we’re not going to give you our land,” even though compensation was being offered.
So what they did was, they were playing a game, watching property values increase, knowing that the market value that they would be provided for the property would be decided once the court had made its final decision. So eight, ten years later, if they could draw the litigation out over a decade, when you have a fifty percent increase per year, that caused the Park Service great anxiety and made them increase their offer to settle. But it was a much more expensive venture that took a lot more time to accomplish. The Nature Conservancy has used a similar kind of strategy, but rather than going into an area such as the Virginia Coastal Reserve, rather than going into the area and telling people, we’re going to create a new Nature Conservancy Preserve here, instead, they set up a variety, a large number of separate dummy corporations that went in and purchased the tracts independently so that nobody really had a sense that there was one group coming in and they were basically creating this collective. And that whole strategy was designed to prevent people from delaying, from holding out, and trying to secure the benefit that the increased property value over time would provide.
So thinking also about the dynamics of this environment and why it’s different than an upland area, say in central New York or central Connecticut. The energy that is pushing against a barrier such as Miami Beach or Assateague Island is coming predominantly from two sources. One is wind and one is waves. Actually, the sand shifts around more in response to wind because prevailing winds push the sand up, and the central stabilizing force of a barrier island is nothing more than a blade of grass. And on Cape Cod, as just one example, the kind of sea grass that they have, the dune grass that they have, it often grows up maybe a meter in height, but it also sends roots down about a meter in height. So that it can withstand a lot of over wash by storm waves. At the same time, it plays a function of building up these dunes, because it just reduces the wind velocity in the vicinity of the grass blades down to a level — I think I recall that it’s seventeen miles an hour, on Cape Cod. So the grains of sand are blowing across the beach and they hit the sea grass and they settle. The dune then builds itself up under natural conditions. Under conditions where people are trampling the sea grass or off road vehicles are trampling the sea grass or developers are building on the dunes, you have a much more rapid rate of dune loss and increased instability.
This house is no longer in place. This house has fallen over the cliff in response to a storm that kept chipping away at the base of this large dune. And many barrier islands also have a phenomena where they have a freshwater lens of ground water that sits on top of the underlying sea water, which is denser. So that most people on barrier islands as well as on Cape Cod, get their water supply from this groundwater lens that is extremely vulnerable to contamination. And why would that be? Because it’s just basically a huge sand pile. So anything that is deposited on the surface can easily migrate beneath the surface.
So in Cape Cod, they’ve now done a storm vulnerability analysis, which they’ve done throughout the United States, and tried to figure out what the best response might be. In some areas, the Park Service tried to use riprap, which are big blocks of stone that they put against the edge between the beach and the sand dunes. And they found that that was not a good idea, because hurricanes and Northeasters could pick up those stones and basically chew right through the barrier island using the stones. The waves push the stones right through the sand. So many people have started building their houses on stilts or refitting stilts and the underlying infrastructure that would be more survivable. And many don’t also understand that during periods of intense storms that these barrier islands want to basically be cut into segments so that they get over washed, and then as the bays behind them fill up, the tide goes down, the water shoots out of the bay and cuts across.
Here’s a good example of a house on Cape Cod that was built on a barrier. And the individual, when he found that his house was floating in the middle of the bay, he got his boat out and he went out and put a chain through his door and his window and dragged the house back to the shoreline, hired a crane operator to come in and pick the house up, put it on a tractor-trailer, and dragged back out and put it back exactly where it was on the beach. And the U.S. federal government, through the flood insurance program, paid for the entire cost.
Chapter 4. The Fire Island Case: Carrot and Stick Approach [00:32:47]
So here’s another good example of the dynamic character of a barrier, where the sands are literally blowing through an oak forest up on Cape Cod. So that a natural condition is a rare condition for a barrier and the estuary that it harbors in the United States now because of the intensity of development and the incentive that people have had to try to make money by investing in property in this area. Fire Island National Seashore, by the way, is only about thirty-five miles to the south of us here. And it’s a pretty good example of — portions of it are a good example of a barrier island. And in 1963, two years after the Cape Cod National Seashore was created, the Fire Island National Seashore and Wilderness Area was created. So I bet you didn’t know that you were within thirty-five miles of a federally-designated Wilderness Area.
Now, if you live in a coastal area, one way of securing your own protection is to try to capture the sediment, the sand that’s moving along the coastline. So people, you can imagine that this coastline was straight and you imagine that the first property owner in this case decided, you know, my beach is eroding, and supposing that this was the area that he was particularly concerned about. My beach is eroding, I’m going to build a jetty that will actually capture that sand as it’s being pushed along the shoreline, which he did. Well, if you’re going to capture sand in one area, you’re going to create a deficit in the next area. So that that is the phenomena, this accretion and deficit effect of building a jetty explains why you have everybody basically doing the same thing. And I was flying over the Connecticut shoreline last weekend. And you can see these jetties side by side all along the New Haven, the Milford, East Haven, Branford shoreline. Very interesting phenomenon. But very expensive to maintain. To build and to maintain.
And here’s another example of how to capture sand. That’s the Massachusetts Beach Buggy Association that is planning sprigs of sea grass in an effort to rebuild the dune. And it actually works. By planting these sprigs of grass, they can cause a dune system to become restored within a matter of a couple of years. So the Cape Cod formula was also applied to Fire Island. And one key element of this legal strategy was that if governments at the local level did not adopt the zoning restrictions that the Park Service wanted for those more developed communities, then the federal government had the authority to use eminent domain to go in and just take over the land. So it was a carrot and a stick idea in a way. If the local government did not adopt the standards to protect the ecological values of these barrier islands, then the federal government would go in and use eminent domain. Interesting kind of combination, is Fire Island. Looking down Fire Island, parts of it are rather intensely developed. Quarter acre houses, sometimes tenth of an acre houses. And the underlying aquifer in this case was polluted, requiring them to drill much deeper wells to provide the community water supply. I’m going to scoot ahead here, another example.
Here is an example of a bunch of fairly expensive houses sitting on the shore of Fire Island. And because these are extremely vulnerable to storms, it’s very common for this first row sitting right on the beach to be wiped out, to be flooded out, which is kind of interesting, because it causes an instant shift in property value on a barrier when the first line gets wiped out. So here’s another shot of an area nearby, when you can see the former house locations marked out by these boundaries. So that all of a sudden, these become shorefront and accrue a terrific increase in property value.
Another example of a property rights mixture on Fire Island is the Point O’ Woods Association, where the land is owned by a collective, a corporation, that then leases out the right to take over one of the houses in the community for a specific period of time. Could be fifty years, might be seventy-five years. And these lease rights are often passed on down among family members. So that this has been an effective strategy in this case to protect the common space, the open land in the middle. By the way, you see also an example here of basically creating a seawall on the bay side that would offer protection for the houses that were built here. But to do that, they basically had to dredge out the material here and dump it on other marshland in order to create this developable property.
Another example on Fire Island, if you look at the little dot up there at the end, the Fire Island Lighthouse. It was funny, I flew right over this the other day. The Fire Island Lighthouse was built right on the end of this spit. And you can see, back in 1834 that it was close to the end. By 1909, the spit had extended several hundred yards. And today, the spit is almost four or four and a half miles beyond the lighthouse. So that not only do these barrier islands want to roll toward the mainland, but they also want to extend themselves in the same direction of the prevailing flow, prevailing currents.
Chapter 5. Additional Pre- and Post-storm Examples; Best Practices [00:38:47]
Another couple of examples of pre- and post-storm. This was Hurricane Rita. And some of these were taken down on the Texas coastline, the Padre Island area. Padre Island is an interesting additional example of a national seashore, so that keep your eye in this case on the structure which is right about there. So this is pre-storm and this is post-storm. Another example of high-rise buildings. And again, think about this. High-rise building sitting on top of a big sand pile, structurally rather unstable, pre-storm and post-storm. And in this case, you can see in the background, there’s almost no damage to the properties that are on the bay side of the barrier island. Another example, pre-storm and post-storm. Pre-storm and post-storm.
This case is interesting. Here’s a shorefront owner who was surprised to find that he was now a corner lot. So that this is a terrific example of the way that a barrier can get over washed, and then the tidal flux causes the water inside the channel just to saw back and forth. And this occurred, interestingly, on Nauset Beach in Chatham in Cape Cod. So that one of these little inlets was created by a storm, a northeaster. And the sawing action of the tides and the currents in additional storms caused the inlet to expand to be more than a mile in width. And the bay front that lay behind it suddenly became oceanfront. And the new oceanfront landowners were really upset, because they now faced increasing risk of storm damage. So they went to the State of Massachusetts and they also went to the Corps of Engineers and said, “You know, you’ve got to step in and you’ve got to offer us protection. We’re too vulnerable. Our property’s vulnerable to loss.” And it caused, now that they were no longer a bay front but they were oceanfront, their shorefront was eroding away and their property was being threatened. The Corps of Engineers and the State of Massachusetts said, “No, we’re sorry. This is a natural process that we are not going to step in to intervene.” So the U.S. government has stopped building these seawalls and stopped building these jetties to capture sand to protect private ownerships. Very interesting outcome that has attracted a lot of litigation. Pre-storm and post-storm.
So I’m going to have to shoot ahead here. Let me close by just saying that the central questions that one would ask about the best way to manage property in the coastal zone include these. Should the land be held in public ownership or private ownership? If the land is currently in private ownership, how should it be taken into public ownership? Should the land be regulated? That’s a much cheaper solution than going in and buying up the land and using the power of eminent domain or purchasing the land from a willing seller. How should we structure our insurance programs? How are we going to manage the tension that exists between the high property value in the coastal zone that provides the fuel to developers to want to go in and develop intensively that creates this public liability?
What is the requirement to provide compensation when regulation is being used to protect one public good or many public goods, access to recreational opportunities, the important nursery characteristic for commercial fisheries, the ecological value of an estuary to store floodwaters so that if an estuary is filled up then it just means the floodwaters are going to move someplace else. So that there are clear benefits associated with regulating development of the coastal zone. So that if you set those regulations up, should you also have to compensate the private landowner if he claims or she claims that their property value has been diminished? So that these are the kind of conflicting and competing values that exist in the coastal zone. Okay. That’s it for today. Have a great weekend. Enjoy the weather.
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