Coastal Resiliency in the Face of Environmental Change

On April 7, 2017 many law and policy experts, scientists, practitioners, and managers met at the University of Oregon School of Law to discuss Coastal Resiliency in the Face of Environmental Change. The Oregon Sea Grant, National Sea Grant, ENR Center, and the Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation sponsored the symposium. The central question presented was “Are current laws and policies flexible for a changing world?” Ocean acidification, sea level rise and its impact on coastal development, and energy issues- both renewable and nonrenewable were the main topics discussed.

The ocean acidification (OA) panel highlighted that OA and its effects on bivalve species are actually more complicated than initially anticipated. OA impacts different species at various points in their life cycles, and certain mitigation measures work well for some species at certain points in their life cycles but not others. It is important that we take complicated science and translate it into effective laws and regulations to protect species affected by OA such as shellfish. Carbon and water pollution are the major contributing factors of OA. In order to combat sources OA we need to match policy tools with both large scale and small-scale acidification contributing factors.

Oregon possesses a land use system directed by 19 Statewide Planning Goals. Many of these statewide planning goals explicitly protect marine, coastal, beach, and estuarine resources. Flood scenario mapping to address flooding and tsunami scenarios will improve current land use policies as well as looking at hazards as a whole and taking into account how communities will be affected. In North Carolina, communities threatened by sea level rise (SLR) enter into a dialogue with the public and take into account the public’s opinions and concerns.

A major focus of the final panel was promoting resiliency on the coast while preparing for major events. Research and modeling is important to understand potential impacts and prepare for what will happen to power systems. The Oregon Coast is a current target for nonrenewable energy sources with fossil fuel infrastructure. Nonrenewable energy projects are likely not the best way to combat resiliency issues and the shift should be towards renewables like marine energy. Renewable energy would provide resiliency to coastal communities while factoring in the cost and making green renewable energy accessible to all in a community. 

View the presentations here