Town of Bowers Beach, Delaware Coastal Resiliency Action Plan
As part of the statewide Sea Level Rise Adaptation Initiative, the Delaware Coastal Management Program in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) worked with the Town of Bowers Beach on a vulnerability assessment and coastal resilience action plan to prepare for sea level rise and other projected climate change impacts. The pilot project examined coastal hazards risks to the Town of Bowers Beach, identified issues of concern, collected relevant information for outreach and planning, and developed adaptation strategies.
The DNREC created the Sea Level Rise Initiative to help municipalities assess vulnerabilities and plan for projected impacts of accelerated sea level rise on the Delaware coast. One aspect of the Initiative was to pilot projects in different coastal cities in the state, including the Town of Bowers Beach. Current coastal issues in Bowers Beach include flooding and coastal erosion from storms; more intense storms and sea level rise expected with climate change have the potential to overwhelm the community, resulting in inundation, habitat loss, saltwater intrusion, and infrastructure damage.
The Town of Bowers Beach received a Coastal Management Assistance Grant award in 2009 to support efforts to reduce existing vulnerabilities along the coast as well as to help plan for future rising sea levels and other climate change impacts.
The project included four steps: data collection and dissemination, a vulnerability assessment, development of a suite of adaptation strategies, and implementation of the action plan. The DNREC and the town collected, analyzed, and disseminated information on coastal hazard risks and projected climate change impacts. The DNREC examined sea level rise flooding projections for Bowers Beach using LIDAR data, sea level rise scenarios based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models, and the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model. Using this information, a detailed vulnerability assessment was conducted in order to develop and prioritize specific strategies. A Hazards Characterization Workshop was held in June 2009 to collect personal accounts from residents on coastal storms and flooding events and to solicit input on local concerns. This information was provided to state and county officials for use in the development of strategies. Using the outcomes of the vulnerability assessment and workshops, a final set of strategies and action plan was developed, which the Town of Bowers Beach has been implementing.
Outcomes and Conclusions
An adaptation action plan was developed, which identified specific coastal vulnerabilities and targeted strategies to address current and future sea level rise, coastal storms, and other climate change impacts. Priority strategies included developing storm warnings and evacuation plans for residents, developing and sharing hazard preparedness materials to residents, improving the stormwater management system, elevating roads, and using beach renourishment to shore up dune systems. Since 2011, most of these recommendations have been addressed. For example, the town uses the Delaware Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Notification System to share warnings about storms and other hazards, and developed an emergency planning section of their website to share relevant information. The town has also undergone several beach and dune renourishment projects to combat coastal erosion since 2009, and has embraced green infrastructure approaches to reduce tidal flooding and extreme heat. Residents have attended flood-ready community trainings and events put on by the Delaware Coastal Management Program, and the town has actively participated in events led by the Resilient and Sustainable Community League.
The lack of a mandate and funding for adaptation action has limited the replication of this pilot initiative. Currently, the state is operating under former Governor Jack Markel’s Executive Order directing state agencies to conduct climate change and sea level rise planning. This planning, however, is not required in municipal-level comprehensive planning. Federal and state grants are often very competitive and limited in number, which complicates efforts to identify funding sources for smaller communities. Developing partnerships with various agencies may help these smaller-scale efforts to be funded. For example, the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife has been working to secure funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for such efforts, including a project to transform parking lots to multiple use spaces in Bowers Beach.
Gregg, R. M. (2021). Town of Bowers Beach, Delaware Coastal Resiliency Action Plan [Case study on a project of the Delaware Coastal Management Program]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/town-bowers-beach-delaware-coastal-resiliency-action-plan (Last updated October 2021)
Planner/Coastal Training Program Coordinator
Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve
DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy