Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-2016


Local governments along Monterey Bay’s shores are undertaking a number of initiatives for which sea level rise adaptation planning is required. Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2008 Executive Order S-13-08 and the 2011 Resolution of the California Ocean Protection Council on sea level rise led to the proliferation of individual agency guidance documents (e.g., CalTrans (2011), BCDC (2011), CCC (2015)) that require emerging best available science (e.g., Pacific Institute Report (Heberger et al. 2009), NRC Report (2012)). These guidance documents stipulate that sea level rise and coastal hazards need to be considered in planning (e.g., Climate Action Compact, Climate Action Plans, Integrated Regional Water Management Plans, Local Hazard Mitigation Plans, Local Coastal Programs). Moreover, the California Coastal Commission has recently issued guidance indicating that sea level rise adaptation planning will be a critical piece of Local Coastal Programs going forward. As Ocean Protection Council (OPC)/California Coastal Commission (CCC) Local Coastal Program Update grantees, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties serve as important pilots for the rest of California’s coastal communities as the state moves toward climate-ready planning.

For years, scientists have emphasized the need to put detailed, dynamic inundation information in the hands of decision-makers in order to support this planning. This information should characterize the physical risk of sea level rise and storms in order to inform coastal managers. Detailed economic analysis, while not completely absent, has lagged behind. Many past studies have focused on the cost of sea level rise, or in some cases estimated the economic benefits of a single adaptation strategy (armoring).

The southern Monterey Bay shore is, on average, the most erosive sandy shore in California (Hapke et al. 2006). The purpose of this study is to provide decision makers in the region with the tools they need to compare a suite of possible adaptation strategies to combat accelerating coastal erosion for their coastline. The physical process modeling projects how the coast would change in response to the implementation of each of these strategies, considering different rates of coastal erosion and flood hazards as well as sea level rise under several different sea level rise projections. This study also analyzes the economic costs and benefits of each adaptation approach, allowing decision makers to compare how the different management strategies will impact their jurisdiction economically as well as physically.

This study provides a detailed, integrated analysis of the costs and benefits of a range of coastal climate change adaptation strategies at four reaches in southern Monterey Bay (Figure 1), given a range of sea level rise projections. We consider a wide range of costs and benefits including losses to private property, to public goods such as recreational resources, and to the ecological function of coastal habitats. With extensive stakeholder input, we chose realistic alternative shoreline management strategies specific to discrete reaches of coastline in the study area. By combining projections of coastal hazard impacts (such as sea level rise, erosion, storm surge, wave impacts, etc.) with economic analyses of the impact on both at-risk human-made infrastructure (buildings, roads, etc.) and natural capital (ecological function and recreational assets), we estimated the value of various adaptation approaches for each reach. This information will give coastal managers the information they need to compare the benefits and impacts of different adaptation approaches and develop adaptation plans for their jurisdictions.