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Sea-Level Change and Storm Surge Implications for Selected Inland Areas of Florida

It is likely that one of the biggest impacts of Sea-level Change (SLC) will be on storm surge. As sea levels increase, the starting point for storm surge will change, and could cause the impacts to be felt further inland and more frequently. There are several tools available including maps, models, and analysis that can be used to assess vulnerability and risk associated with SLC and storm surge. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has developed guidance for incorporating SLC consideration into all USACE water resources management projects. At the state and local level, especially in Florida, officials are considering SLC when it comes to planning for the future. This project will highlight the latest USACE guidance on SLC and describe some of the tools currently available to assess SLC and storm surge. Curves representing three potential future SLC scenarios will be developed for the St. Marys, St. Johns, and Suwannee Rivers and maps will be produced that show potential combined impacts of SLC and storm surge. The maps and information presented in this report are intended to be used for general planning purposes. More detailed modeling and mapping should be used for specific projects and detailed design work.

Maps showing inundation footprints are a useful tool for communicating the potential for impacts. Before getting into the details of the maps developed for this project, it is important to understand the tools and data that are already available. This section will provide a basic overview of Storm Surge Inundation Maps, NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer, and FEMA Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps. There are also other tools and data currently available that are not covered in this report. Before using any map for planning purposes it is important to understand the data and methods used to generate the map.

The scenarios mapped provide a broad view of possible future scenarios at a regional scale. The maps can be used for informational purposes and general awareness; however more detailed mapping and modeling may be needed for the design of specific projects within the region.

As sea levels continue to rise, causing the impacts of storm surge to reach further inland and become more frequent, it is important to identify vulnerable areas so that future damages can be avoided. The maps developed for this project can be used to assist planning efforts for a variety of projects which seek to implement strategies to make infrastructure more resilient to storm surge in the future. The distribution of the combined inundation maps developed for this project should be coordinated with the Northeast Florida and North Central Florida Regional Planning Councils. The combined inundation layers reflect hypothetical scenarios, and while these scenarios are plausible, there are no historically based probabilities of occurrence associated with them. The combined SLR and storm surge inundation layers may be provided electronically as GIS files or could be converted to a Google Earth layer for viewing purposes. Additional output files generated by the USACE, Jacksonville District, Planning Division using the Florida Surge and Sea Level Rise GIS tool could also be provided electronically. The point of contact for this project is Dave Apple, david.p.apple@usace.army.mil.

It is likely that one of the biggest impacts on sea-level change (SLC) will be on storm surge. This project highlights the latest United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) guidance on SLC and describes some of the tools currently available to assess SLC and Storm Surge. The project provides maps showing the potential combined impacts of sea-level rise (SLR) and storm surge inundation along the St. Mary’s, St. Johns, and Suwannee Rivers in North Florida.

While this effort does not directly reduce expenditures for a specific project or organization, it is anticipated that with this product, expenditures could be reduced in the following ways. Significant study time and costs could be saved by being able to quickly determine how vulnerable an area or specific project is to a number of potential SLR and storm surge scenarios. If SLR or storm surge is significant it would require site specific research for individual projects, but if minimal, perhaps no additional work will be necessary. This would be applicable to both USACE and non-USACE projects. Reduced expenditures could also be realized in the future through better decision making on future projects potentially subject to sea level rise. Specifically, this effort could eliminate construction of infrastructure within areas that could be impacted by SLR and storm surge in the future, significantly reducing recovery costs, economic impacts such as infrastructure damage and business closures, and potentially even loss of life.