Sea Level Rise Response Strategy Worcester County, Maryland

Posted on: 10/28/2021 - Updated on: 12/03/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



The ultimate purpose of the Sea Level Rise Response Strategy Report is to provide the information necessary for Worcester County decision-makers to evaluate and prioritize response options for future implementation. Based on a literature review of sea level rise planning documents and experience in prioritizing hazard mitigation and post-disaster redevelopment initiatives, the following criteria are recommended as a useful framework for determining which response options will be most appropriate for adoption and implementation in Worcester County:

  • Legal Authority – Does Worcester County have the legal authority to implement the response option? If not, does the response option fall under the authority of another jurisdiction that the county can request consider the option?
  • Institutional Feasibility – Can the response option be implemented through existing county management systems?
  • Consistency with Community Vision – Does the response option support existing community goals and policies?
  • Political Feasibility – Is the option likely to be accepted by the public? Will concern over public costs, property rights infringement, or other issues make this option politically difficult to support? Some response options may initially be politically sensitive, but could be made palatable with a public outreach program that eases concerns through a better understanding of the potential impacts of sea level rise and the options for adaptive response.
  • Estimated Benefits Outweigh Estimated Costs – Are the costs (monetary and other) of implementing the response option less than the benefits the community stands to gain? Benefits to consider include the following:
    • Health and safety;
    • Unique or critical resources;
    • Economic impacts; and
    • Environmental impacts.
  • Minimize Opportunity Costs – Will taking action now foreclose other options that would generate near-term benefits to the citizens of Worcester County? As part of the cost-benefit discussion, the potential for loss of opportunity by preparing for future hazards should be specifically examined. This involves weighing the opportunity costs of expending capital or removing land from the market now versus the somewhat uncertain future costs of not taking any adaptive measures. Ideally, response options would be beneficial regardless of the uncertainties of the future (i.e., if sea level rises as predicted or higher the community would benefit, but also some benefits would be realized if the rate of sea level rise turns out to be slower than expected). Few response options will meet this criterion; however, some may be closer to a no-regrets strategy than others. For example, some measures to adapt to sea level rise also will provide protection from flooding associated with coastal storms.
  • Urgency Considerations – Would the response option need to be implemented immediately to be effective or would it be equally effective if implemented at a later date, such as 10 or 20 years from now? If the response option meets the other criteria and is deemed a valuable solution but is time-sensitive, it should be given a higher priority.
  • Positive or Neutral Environmental Impact – What will the environmental impacts of the response option be? Actions that improve or do not harm the environmental integrity of the bays or terrestrial ecosystems are preferred over those that have the potential to degrade the environment.
  • Equity – Does the response option avoid the problem of unfairly helping some at the expense of other communities, generations, or socioeconomic groups?
  • Demonstrated Effectiveness – Has the response option been implemented elsewhere previously, and has it been proven effective? Many response options for sea level rise have been used for flooding, erosion, and environmental protection. Those that have a proven record of performance may help meet the political feasibility criterion.
  • Potential Resource Availability – Are the resources required to implement the option reasonable to obtain either locally or through federal, state, or private assistance?

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