Town of Guilford, Connecticut

Local Government
United States


This Long Island Sound shoreline town is a combination residential and summer community. Five miles in width and 12 miles in length, the town contains 47.6 square miles and a population of 21,000. Flanked on the west by Branford and on the east by Madison, these shoreline towns are suburbs to urban New Haven.

Guilford has a small, historic, charming atmosphere which is highlighted by its rustic character and individuality. The town seeks to maintain its value and character as it continues the development of its commercial and industrial area in the southern section.

Adaptation work: 

Coastal Resilience

Utilizing The Nature Conservancy’s web‐based Coastal Resilience Tool, the Town of Guilford is undertaking The Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience Program. Coastal resilience is the ability to resist, absorb, recover from, or adapt to coastal hazards such as sea level rise, increased flooding, and more frequent and intense storm surges. The goal of the Coastal Resilience Program is to address the current and future social, economic and ecological resilience of the Town of Guilford to the impacts of sea level rise and anticipated increases in the frequency and severity of storm surge, coastal flooding, and erosion. The four basic steps of the Coastal Resilience Program are:

  1. Generate awareness of coastal risk (already underway and largely complete);
  2. Assess coastal risks and opportunities (complete);
  3. Identify options or choices for addressing priority risks and vulnerabilities (current effort); and
  4. Develop and implement an action plan to put selected options or choices into place (future effort).

The Town has drafted the subject report of options for increased coastal resilience as a step toward developing a Community Coastal Resilience Plan. This report has been funded through a grant from NOAA as part of the New England Municipal Resilience Initiative. In the context of hazards, risk is the product or the sum of vulnerability and frequency.

In the context of coastal hazards, risk will change over time because the frequency will increase. Coastal storms are believed to be increasing in frequency, and flooding will increase in frequency as sea level rises. Thus, even if coastal vulnerabilities in Guilford remain static, risks will increase. Therefore, Guilford is at a crossroads with regard to reducing risk. Vulnerabilities can remain static and risk can increase, or vulnerabilities can be reduced through adaptation to hold risk at bay. If vulnerabilities can be reduced even further, than risks could be lowered in the face of rising sea level and increased coastal storms, leading to increased resilience.

Many coastal resilience and adaptation strategies, measures, and actions have been described in the climate change literature since the late 1980s. Two decades ago, the primary options for adaptation that were considered viable were protection, retreat, and accommodation. However, we now understand that accommodation is rarely sustainable in the long term, and that protection and retreat are overly simplified terms that do not allow for the many strategies, measures, and actions currently available to communities. These strategies, measures, and actions have evolved over time and can typically be grouped into a number of broad categories that are separated by type of vulnerability addressed or proposed method of implementation.