Managed Retreat Toolkit
Adequate and available funding will be a prerequisite for state and local governments to implement managed retreat strategies. Nationally, there is a perception that retreat can only occur — or primarily occurs — in the aftermath of a disaster or extreme weather event. Part of this narrative is driven by the availability of federal funding in disaster recovery contexts, which are delivered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG–DR) program. As governments implement a diverse suite of tools in a pre-disaster and more comprehensive fashion, increased types and amounts of funding across all levels of government will be needed. Most managed retreat strategies will require funding — particularly those involving acquisitions, environmental conservation and restoration, and affordable housing and infrastructure investments in receiving communities. Generally, there is insufficient funding for climate adaptation, let alone managed retreat. This lack of funding will be exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic because of the crisis’s impacts on federal, state, and local budgets and the economy.
The section presents a thorough, but non-exhaustive list of funding options and examples that have been used nationally to fund the implementation of different tools for managed retreat and different components of comprehensive strategies. This section includes federal, state, and local funding sources that could be applied in a managed retreat context. This section also includes examples of funding from case study programs and projects featured in this toolkit. Although the focus of this toolkit is on developing proactive or “managed” retreat responses, both pre- and post-disaster sources are included below given the amount of money that flows in a disaster context that can supplement pre-disaster sources.
Overall, most of the currently available funding sources can be used to support planning initiatives; acquire property for hazard mitigation or open space purposes; and implement projects to restore, conserve, and facilitate the inland migration and higher ground establishment of coastal ecosystems, namely wetlands. This summary, however, reveals gaps in the funding system for managed retreat. In particular, new types of funding will be required for data collection and monitoring, community engagement efforts, and affordable housing, infrastructure investments, and critical services in receiving areas. In addition, federal, state, and local policymakers should assess whether there are opportunities to use existing funding in new ways under current legal and policy authorities, or if more significant reform is needed.
Priority and overarching practice tips for funding managed retreat include:
- Leverage and combine funding and in-kind support from multiple sources to support different components of a comprehensive managed retreat strategy over time: Funding for managed retreat should be viewed holistically. Multiple sources of funding will likely be needed to support different aspects of comprehensive managed retreat strategies, from planning and community engagement efforts to acquisitions, relocation assistance, and ecosystem restoration and conservation. Moreover, given the likely longer-term and phased nature of many adaptation strategies, governments should also evaluate different public and private funding sources over varying time periods. To develop successful, layered funding strategies, governments must be knowledgeable about each potential type of funding, particularly for federal sources — including its purpose, eligible uses, any restrictions or limitations (e.g., timing, future land uses), and reporting, monitoring, and other administrative requirements. For grants in particular, this knowledge can also help governments identify where one type of funding may be used as a match for another. Governments can also evaluate opportunities to provide in-kind support like land or staff time to implement managed retreat strategies (e.g., Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration and Land Swap, Long Beach, California). Federal and state agencies and regional entities can play important roles in helping resource-disadvantaged or -constrained communities overcome informational and educational barriers to learning about, applying for, and administering a diversity of funding options.
- Create sustainable state and local funding sources and other revenue streams for climate adaptation and managed retreat: Given the competitiveness and limitations of federal funding, particularly in a disaster recovery context, state and local governments will have to evaluate and develop alternative state and local sources where they do not already exist. Local context and community needs will help governments assess what new types of funding (e.g., grants, loans, bonds, taxes) will be more politically feasible and maximize the attainment of priority goals and objectives. Where annual appropriations or consistent revenue streams are available — such as from property, stormwater, or business taxes that support buyout programs like those in Harris County, Texas, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County region in North Carolina and New York City, and the State of New Jersey, respectively — governments can create predictable sources of funding that will support and sustain community adaptation efforts. Furthermore, to adequately support the consideration and implementation of managed retreat strategies, multiple types of activities should be eligible for funding, in addition to capital projects. For example, local governments and communities, especially in historically resource-disadvantaged areas, are often in need of additional funding to aid them in planning, collecting data, long-term monitoring and evaluation projects (e.g., shoreline change, ecosystem restoration), designing and facilitating community engagement processes, and meeting other administrative needs, such as hiring and training new and existing staff.
- Evaluate new opportunities to finance managed retreat strategies: Financing managed retreat is an evolving area of study. Nonetheless, governments can work through public-private partnerships, such as with universities and environmental consultants and nonprofits, to evaluate opportunities to finance, among other things, property acquisitions and the conservation and restoration of publicly owned lands. Tools like wetland mitigation banks and Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs can create a potential market to finance some components of managed retreat. For example, the Harris County Flood Control District is permanently preserving 910 acres of bought-out land as a “Greens WetBank” for government and private developers that need wetland mitigation credits to offset losses elsewhere. Here, developers will foot the bill for wetland restoration. Similarly, 76 acres of degraded wetlands that are a part of a 154-acre land swap in Long Beach, California will be restored via a mitigation bank. In addition, more than 144,290 acres of rural and resource lands were conserved and protected through the market for development credits created by the King County TDR Program in Washington. As a result, more than 2,400 potential dwelling units have been relocated from rural to urban areas. Despite these examples, more innovation will be needed. In particular, it will be important for governments and other partners to engage in pilot projects, where possible, to ground truth and adapt market theories to meet local context and needs.
FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant Program
FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program is designed to support state, territorial, and local governments and federally recognized tribes in their efforts to undertake pre-disaster hazard mitigation projects and planning to reduce risks stemming from hazards and disasters events. In a managed retreat context, BRIC funds can be used to support on-the-ground projects like the acquisition of properties through voluntary floodplain buyouts and the implementation of other nature-based solutions that mitigate flood risk. Additionally, BRIC grants for "capability- and capacity-building" activities can be used to incorporate climate considerations into hazard mitigation plans to identify managed retreat priorities, including voluntary floodplain buyouts, and/or to align hazard mitigation plans with state and local climate adaptation plans, which may also include elements of managed retreat. BRIC funding is available on an annual basis in states that have received a presidential disaster declaration in the past seven years from the date when FEMA issues a Notice of Funding Opportunity. The BRIC program replaced FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program that served a similar purpose, but was administered differently and was not prescribed by Congress to be available on an annual basis.
HUD Community Development Block Grant Program
Administered by FEMA, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides grants to state, territorial, and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. The purpose of the HMGP is to reduce the loss of life and property due to major disaster events and enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster. HMGP funding is only available to applicants that reside within a presidentially declared disaster area. Given the post-disaster availability of funding and the disaster-area spatial restriction, governments will be limited in applying HMGP funding to managed retreat projects in a pre-disaster context and located in non-disaster areas, such as receiving communities that do not meet those criteria. Notably, HMGP funds can be used to acquire vulnerable properties through hazard mitigation buyouts (not eminent domain), and relocate or demolish structures to reduce or eliminate the losses from future disasters. These funds could supplement non-disaster-related sources of fundings, for example, to conduct buyouts on a larger-scale in a given community or region.
HUD Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery
HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program is designed to help cities and states provide affordable housing and expand economic opportunities. CDBG funds must principally benefit persons of low- and moderate-income, as defined by federal law. The CDBG program is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. Compared to the HUD CDBG–DR program, CDBG funds are appropriated on an annual basis outside of a disaster recovery context. CDBG can be leveraged in multiple ways to support the implementation of managed retreat strategies. Notably, CDBG funds can be used as a non-federal match for other programs requiring state or local matching funds. CDBG funding may be used for a wide range of community development activities including: the acquisition, relocation, demolition, and rehabilitation of residential and non-residential property; and the provision of public facilities and improvements (such as water, sewers, streets, and neighborhood centers). For example, the State of New York funded large-scale buyouts in Oakwood Beach after Hurricane Sandy with CDBG. The community benefited from the quick receipt of non-disaster-related funding from FEMA or HUD that can take more time to appropriate and deliver to grantees. CDBG could also be used to make proactive affordable housing and infrastructure investments in areas predicted to become receiving communities.
NOAA Coastal Zone Management grants -- Section 306/306a
Congress often funds state and local recovery efforts by appropriating funds to the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG–DR) authorized by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 and administered by HUD. Through supplemental appropriations, Congress allocates funds to HUD to distribute block grants to help communities support both short-term disaster relief as well as long-term recovery. Because of the wide array of eligible activities, the CDBG program provides flexibility to state and local recipients to use the funds to implement activities to mitigate future hazards. Funds can be used to acquire real property through hazard mitigation buyouts, demolish structures, prepare sites for development, and to support economic development, among other things. For example, the State of Louisiana used CDBG funds to acquire properties in floodplains after Hurricane Katrina and to fund the LA SAFE program that engaged communities in six coastal parishes to plan for and make long-term investments in higher ground receiving areas.
NOAA Coastal Zone Enhancement Grants (Section 309)
NOAA provides formula grant funding to coastal states to support administration and specific projects to implement each state’s coastal management plan under Sections 306 and 306a of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Section 306 funds can be used to fund staff and administrative costs of administering a state’s coastal management program, such as costs to enforce policies within the CMP. Section 306a funds can be used to acquire land and support educational and management costs, among others.
NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grants
NOAA's Coastal Zone Enhancement Program provides formula grants to state and territorial coastal zone management programs to help jurisdictions enhance and improve the management of coastal resources in nine “enhancement areas.” Funds are provided directly to states that can use those grants to assess their coastal management programs and identify opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of their programs. Grants are used to develop legal and policy changes and cannot be used for capital projects. The NOAA guidance on the enhancement program specifies a number of different ways that states can use these funds to support adaptation and managed retreat at both the state and local levels including: to identify wetland areas that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, identify sites where restoration will have the greatest chance of success given climate change projects, and identify restoration projects that will have adaptation benefits; to develop climate change adaptation plans or consider climate change in hazard mitigation plans or other planning documents; to enhance land-use policies to prepare for the impacts of climate change, such as restricting new development or redevelopment in coastal high hazard areas and updating shoreline setback requirements; to enhance or develop land acquisition, relocation assistance, or buyout programs; to establish a transfer of development rights program to reduce development densities in coastal high hazard areas; or to adopt a managed retreat strategy.
USFWS National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program
This competitive grant program from NOAA funds a diversity of projects to help coastal communities and ecosystems prepare for and recover from climate change and extreme weather. Examples of funded projects include community planning efforts and pilot projects that restore wetlands or create living shorelines.
USDA NRCS Conservation Easement and Restoration Funding Programs
The USFWS National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program annually provides grants of up to $1 million to coastal and Great Lakes states, as well as U.S. territories, to protect, restore, and enhance coastal wetland ecosystems and associated uplands. Projects funded by these grants provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats. The protection, restoration, and conservation of wetlands not only supports the continued viability of sensitive species and biodiverse habitat but also provides a natural effective buffer for sea-level rise and flooding. Wetlands provide further resiliency through stabilizing the shoreline, storm surge protection, and pollutant buffering to improve water quality.
Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offers financial incentives and technical support through multiple programs to public and private landowners aiming to conserve wetlands, agricultural lands, grasslands, and forests through long-term easements. NRCS provides different funding opportunities to acquire land for conservation in both a post-disaster and pre-disaster context, which only the latter is discussed in this entry. This entry discusses seven different USDA NRCS easement and restoration funding programs that can apply in a managed retreat context to acquire vulnerable properties, particularly in rural localities, and protect and conserve priority wetland migration corridors and higher ground establishment areas. All NRCS programs are voluntary and allow working lands owners to be compensated for conserving their working lands. These programs and easements can increase local resilience to climate change by improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and enhancing wildlife habitat.
Wetland Program Development Grants
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is a federal-state partnership program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provides low-interest loans and other low-cost financing for water infrastructure projects for eleven project types. Notably, CWSRF can support projects that result in the protection or restoration of surface water, including land conservation and restoration through the fee simple purchase of land, leasing of land, and conservation easements. Any public, private, or nonprofit entity is eligible for land conservation projects. Governments can leverage the CWSRF to fund land acquisitions that will achieve co-benefits to enhance surface water quality and help facilitate retreat for coastal communities and ecosystems. Specifically, governments could use the CWSRF to acquire land for buyouts and open space conservation that can help move people out of harm’s way and/or protect priority wetland migration corridors and higher ground establishment areas. Through the program, EPA provides grants to all 50 states and Puerto Rico, with states matching 20 percent of the grants. These funds are used by state agencies to provide loans, insurance, grants, debt purchases, loan guarantees, or other assistance to qualifying applicants.
USDOT Surface Transportation Block Grant Program
Regional Wetland Program Development Grants assist state and local governments, as well as interstate entities in building programs that protect, manage, and restore wetlands. The primary focus of the grants is to build state wetland programs. A secondary focus is to build local (e.g., county or municipal) programs. The EPA has identified four “Core Elements” to improve the ability for states and local governments to protect and restore their wetland, including voluntary restoration and protection measures.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) is the most flexible of all Federal-aid highway programs, allowing wide discretion for recipients to use funds as needed to meet state and local transportation priorities.See footnote 1 This includes any activities relating to construction of highways or other eligible facilities (including acquisition of right-of-way) as consistent with state and metropolitan long-range transportation plans.See footnote 2 Activities and projects designed to improve climate resilience of transportation facilities, infrastructure, and systems, as well as related planning and vulnerability assessment activities, are eligible uses for STBG funding.See footnote 3 Accordingly, transportation agencies might consider using STBG funds for resilient design modifications and asset relocation or realignment in the context of critical highway assets serving communities in high-risk coastal areas.
USDOT Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program
In 2018 the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) replaced the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program with the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation grant program. BUILD is a discretionary grant program that makes federal funding available on a competitive basis to surface transportation projects that meet "merit criteria." Since 2009, DOT has provided $7.1 billion in grants through this program to support 554 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan Program
The Transportation Alternatives (TA) Set-Aside Program (formerly the Transportation Alternatives Program) is administered by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a set-aside portion of the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program. The TA Set-Aside Program helps states fund a variety of activities related to improving transportation assets, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, environmental mitigation, and creating or improving recreational trails projects. TA Set-Aside activities must relate to surface transportation, and must fall within one of ten statutorily defined categories, which can include land acquisition, construction, planning, and design of on- and off-road bicycle and pedestrian trails and other projects to provide non-vehicular routes. Other eligible uses include environmental mitigation, including stormwater management activities, and recreational trails. In a managed retreat context, recipients might consider using TA funding alongside road realignment projects, where uses for the original alignment encompass converting the right-of-way to recreational trails for non-vehicular use.
Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant Program
SBA offers a range of financing and other assistance in a post-disaster context. The SBA Disaster Loan Program supports businesses, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters located in declared disaster areas by providing affordable, timely, and accessible low-interest, long-term loans for losses not fully covered by insurance or other means. Specifically, SBA Disaster Loans can supplement funds eligible parties may receive from FEMA or HUD or insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program or private providers. SBA disaster assistance is available following a presidentially declared disaster. SBA also has its own authority to declare disasters in areas that can meet a lower threshold in circumstances where at least 25 businesses or homes have uninsured losses of at least 40 percent based on their pre-disaster fair market value within a county or jurisdiction. The main advantages of SBA disaster recovery loans are that they offer low-interest, long-term loans to a variety of different types of entities; they offer loans in multiple circumstances beyond presidentially declared disasters and receipt of funding may be faster than from other federal sources. One tradeoff, however — when compared to disaster assistance grants from FEMA or HUD that are reimbursable — is that SBA disaster recovery loans must be repaid. Nonetheless, federal reforms under the Disaster Recovery Reform Act in 2018 could change potential repayment obligations for some parties receiving SBA loans in the future.
San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Measure
Massachusetts’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness or “MVP” grant program provides support for cities and towns across the state to begin the process of planning and implementing climate change resiliency projects. The MVP program provides one example of a sustainable source of state adaptation funding that local governments can use to both develop plans and implement projects for managed retreat. Specifically, the state awards communities with funding to complete vulnerability assessments and develop resiliency plans. Communities who complete the MVP program become certified as a MVP community and are eligible for MVP Action grant funding to implement priority projects. For example, a community plan in the coastal town of Brewster, which was funded through the MVP program, includes managed retreat as a potential adaptation strategy the community may consider.
Virginia SB 320 Community Flood Preparedness Fund
The San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention, and Habitat Restoration Measure (Measure AA) is a $12-per-year parcel tax for the San Francisco Bay area of California — which passed with over 70% support in all nine Bay Area counties on June 7, 2016. The measure is anticipated to generate $500 million over 20 years at approximately $25 million per year for critical tidal marsh restoration projects around San Francisco Bay. Measure AA was the first parcel tax in the history of the state to be levied throughout an entire region encompassing multiple counties. This example of a regional, voter-supported tax is a unique funding model that could be instructive for other state and local governments to restore and facilitate the inland migration of important coastal ecosystems.
South Carolina Disaster Relief and Resilience Act
In 2020, Virginia created the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund (Virginia Code §§ 10.1-603.24 and 10.1-603.25). Through this law, the state established a low-interest revolving loan fund to help local governments and communities adapt to increasing coastal and inland flooding from multiple, different sources, including sea-level rise and precipitation. The purpose of the fund is to enhance the state’s overall resilience by funding flood prevention and mitigation projects, and prioritizing projects in low-income areas that incorporate nature-based solutions. Virginia’s sustainable funding model can serve as an example to support climate adaptation projects in other states and communities in a managed retreat context. The state created an earlier version of the fund, the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund, in 2016; however, it never received any appropriations or “seed” funding. Governments need to invest in and support the start-up of revolving loans funds to ensure their uptake and success.
Maryland Senate Bill 457: Resilience Authorities
As a result of the Disaster Reilef and Resilience Act from 2020, South Carolina can fund local projects that increase the state's resilience to natural disaster and flooding events though its Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund and its Resilience Revolving Fund. The Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund finances disaster recovery efforts and hazard mitigation projects in communities with "significant unmet needs" following federally declared disaster events. Funds may be used for immediate disaster relief or to aid resilient rebuilding efforts. Further, any actions funded must account for future flood risks and hazard exposure to ensure that post-disaster rebuilding mitigates exposure to future hazards and potential losses. Additionally, the Resilience Revolving Fund provides low-interest loans to local governments to perform floodplain buyouts and restoration projects. Communities can apply to the the Resilience Revolving Fund to finance projects to buy out properties experiencing repetitive flood loss and to restore bought-out floodplains. A portion of each loan made through the Resilience Revolving Fund is offered to the recipient as a grant. The proportion of the loan offered as a grant increases with the additional beneficial flood mitigation practices implemented as part of a project. These Funds provide useful examples of how local policymakers considering managed retreat can incentivize projects that increase community resilience to natural disaster and flooding events.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of New Jersey: Blue Acres Buyout Program
Passed on May 8, 2020, Maryland’s Senate Bill 457 authorizes local governments to establish and fund a Resilience Authority under local law. A Resilience Authority enables a local jurisdiction — or multiple jurisdictions in Maryland — to flexibly organize funding for and manage large-scale infrastructure projects specifically aimed at addressing the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, flooding, increased precipitation, and erosion. Authorities can draw from diverse funding sources, including non-tax-based fees, bonds, and state, local, and nongovernmental contributions, to support a non-exhaustive list of infrastructure projects, such as conserving green and open spaces to enhance flood mitigation. The power to establish these Authorities allows local governments to accelerate infrastructure financing for climate adaptation and managed retreat, where appropriate, through new local and regional approaches.
New Jersey Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) Program
Established in 1995, the New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program is a nationally recognized example of a longstanding, state-run buyout program. Blue Acres was established with $15 million in funding from the Green Acres, Farmland, and Historic Preservation and Blue Acres Bond Act of 1995. Additional funding was provided in two different bond acts in 2007 and 2009. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Blue Acres secured nearly $300 million in federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery program. In 2019, the New Jersey Legislature passed a constitutional measure to provide a sustainable source of funding for Blue Acres from a portion of the state’s Corporate Business Tax.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: Floodplain Buyout Program
In 1971, New Jersey implemented the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) Program. Through this program, the state pays municipalities to protect and conserve open, undeveloped lands owned by the state and tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. This program was created to serve the environmental quality, quality of life, and economic health in New Jersey by conserving open space for natural resources and recreational purposes. While this program has been amended throughout its tenure, it is a noteworthy example of a state program that creates incentives for local governments to create open space by mitigating the impacts of lost tax revenue. In a managed retreat context, a similar program could be coupled with hazard mitigation buyouts and open space acquisitions to encourage local governments to conserve vulnerable properties impacted by sea-level rise and flooding. Although this program is not an explicit source of funding to acquire or conserve open space or bought-out land, this type of programs can be coupled with other funding sources to incentivize voluntary property acquisitions and encourage the support of local policymakers for land acquisition projects. Tax offsets paid to local governments can act as gap funding to mitigate local financial barriers that prevent the acquisition and restoration of flood-prone properties.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Harris County, Texas: Flood Control District Local Buyout Program
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSS) — a county-wide regional utility in North Carolina — has been administering a Floodplain Buyout Program to relocate vulnerable residents out of floodplains and reduce long-term flood damage. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices. Once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention and water quality improvement functions and provide other community amenities, like parks and trails. The program has been funded through a combination of federal hazard mitigation programs and local stormwater fees, with leasebacks also supporting the recapture of some costs. CMSS has invested more than $67 million to acquire flooded properties. As a result, the county estimates it has avoided an estimated $25 million in property damage and related losses to date and prevented $300 million in future losses.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — City of Austin, Texas: Flood Risk Reduction Buyout Projects
Harris County, Texas established a voluntary home buyout program through the regional government agency, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD). The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention functions. Historically, properties have been acquired with grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance program, Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, and local funding from a dedicated ad valorem property tax (i.e., a tax based on a property’s assessed value). As a result of the program, more than 3,000 properties (as of 2019) have been purchased to remove residents from flood-prone areas and prevent future flood damage to people, property, and the environment.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — New York City, New York: Land Acquisition and Flood Buyout Programs
The City of Austin has implemented ten buyout projects, with each project encompassing anywhere from a handful to more than 800 properties. A mix of municipal bonds, federal grants, and local funds (primarily through a drainage fee paid by owners of properties based upon impervious surface cover) have been used to fund the buyouts.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Long Beach, California: Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration and Land Swap
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) offers flood mitigation buyouts within the NYC watershed, in cooperation with the state, through a Flood Buyout Program that can serve as a model for other coastal and riverine jurisdictions considering retreat. Notably, NYC DEP administers a Land Acquisition Program — in addition to its Flood Buyout Program — with a focus on conserving land within the NYC watershed to protect water quality. The NYC Land Acquisition and Flood Buyout programs are almost entirely funded by NYC ratepayers through water and sewer bills. In addition, some buyouts implemented under the Flood Buyout Program are funded by grants from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
Land Acquisition and Restoration Projects in the Greens Bayou Watershed in Harris County, Texas: Greens WetBank and Bayou Greenways 2020
The Los Cerritos Wetlands Oil Consolidation and Restoration Project (project) provides an example of how public-private land swap arrangements can be aligned with environmental restoration and protection plans, and used to advance long-term visions for managed retreat. Some of the land management and restoration costs will be offset through the establishment of a wetlands mitigation bank. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Complex, located in Long Beach, California, has faced decades of degradation from human activities and development. As a result, the original 2,400 acres of wetlands on the site have been reduced to a few hundred acres of wetlands today. The proposed project would transfer 154 acres of wetlands privately owned by Synergy Oil and Gas (Synergy) to public ownership as part of a land swap arrangement. Specifically, as a part of the land swap, the 154 acres currently used for oil production by Synergy will be exchanged for five acres of wetlands currently owned by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA). To address environmental benefits, 76 acres of degraded wetlands in the northern end of the 154-acre site will be restored via a mitigation bank. Synergy seeks to establish and operate a wetlands mitigation bank (pending federal and state approvals) to fund its restoration efforts on this part of the complex through the sale of “credits” to mitigate or offset wetland losses from new development in other locations. LCWA is also working with Synergy and the City of Long Beach to plan the restoration of tidal wetlands on the 73 acres at the southern end of the Synergy Oil Field and on the 33-acre city-owned property, including through a potential second wetlands mitigation bank, once existing wells and other oil production facilities are removed.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — King County, Washington: Transfer of Development Rights Program
In Texas, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and other local partners are implementing different land acquisition, restoration, and conservation projects in the Greens Bayou watershed in Harris County and the City of Houston. One initiative includes the Greens Bayou Mitigation Bank (Greens WetBank). The Greens WetBank is a wetland mitigation bank on nearly 1,000 acres of land in Harris County, where HCFCD restores wetlands and generates revenue by selling “wetland credits” to developers who need to offset wetland losses at locations outside the Greens WetBank’s land in Harris County. The Greens WetBank allows developers to meet federal permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act and dedicate funds to implement projects that improve the environment by restoring wetlands to provide flood mitigation, water quality, and natural resources benefits.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of Louisiana: Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE)
In Washington State, King County operates a regional Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program to achieve long-term planning goals and incentivize development in strategic growth areas. This program and Washington provides three unique funding examples for managed retreat. First, King County’s TDR Program could serve as a model approach for using market-based tools as a part of a comprehensive managed retreat strategy to encourage the preservation of sensitive coastal ecosystems while reducing development in vulnerable coastal areas. Second, King County has leveraged work across different types of state, regional, and local land acquisition programs to achieve co-benefits and combine multiple funding sources for land purchases. For example, the TDR Program often provides match funds for land acquisitions supported by a local property tax. Third, Washington State also created the regional Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program (LCLIP) to support TDR Programs like King County’s by financing infrastructure development and other improvements in receiving communities to ensure these areas can keep pace with population growth. By adopting a TDR Program and agreeing to accept a specified amount of regional (as opposed to only municipal) development rights, municipalities within these three counties are eligible to receive a bonus portion of their county’s property tax revenues to finance investments in receiving areas, such as transportation and water and sewer system repairs and upgrades, construction of public transit, community amenities like parks and trails, and electric, gas, and other utility infrastructure. LCLIP only reallocates a portion of the incremental property taxes that result from new development and does not impose any new tax burden on residents or businesses.
Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Staten Island, New York: Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee and Program
Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) is a community-based planning and capital investment process that will help the state fund and implement several projects, including for managed retreat, to make its coasts more resilient. In 2016, Louisiana’s Office for Community Development–Disaster Recovery Unit received a nearly $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) and additional state and nongovernmental funds from the Foundation for Louisiana (FFL) (a program co-lead) to implement LA SAFE. In 2016, following a series of federally declared disasters, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided $1 billion in Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery funding through NDRC to eligible state and local governments to stimulate the development of innovative resilience projects. Louisiana received $39.75 million from NDRC and the state pledged an additional $250,000 during the application process, bringing the total to $40 million. Later, the state added additional funds that totaled $47.5 million. FFL also contributed financial support to the process, which demonstrates LA SAFE’s ability to leverage nongovernmental sources of funding to support community engagement processes. These funds will support the design and implementation of resilience projects to address impacts in six coastal parishes that were affected by Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
Post-Disaster Community Investments in Lumberton Through the North Carolina State Acquisition and Relocation Fund for Buyout Relocation Assistance
Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Oakwood Beach on Staten Island in New York City became the first community to take advantage of New York State’s post-Sandy buyout program to plan for retreat in a model that could be replicated in other vulnerable coastal locations. The members of the small community formed the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee, and petitioned the state government to buy out entire neighborhoods, which resulted in large-scale risk reduction and cost-saving benefits compared to individual buyouts. Less than three months after Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a state-funded buyout program, pledging upwards of $200 million in HUD Community Development Block Grants to relocate families in high flood risk areas in places like Oakwood Beach.
Lumberton, North Carolina provides one example of how state funding for relocation assistance can help support local buyouts and community investments in underserved areas. In the Fall of 2016, the small community of Lumberton was devastated by Hurricane Matthew when the Lumber River overflowed. As of 2019, Lumberton is seeking to leverage several grants and funding programs, including North Carolina’s State Acquisition and Relocation Fund (SARF), to rebuild the community and provide residents with relocation assistance to obtain new homes in Lumberton through a state-local partnership. Specifically, with funding from SARF, the local government is considering opportunities to invest in new homes in one existing, but underserved neighborhood of Lumberton that can offer safer homes for bought-out residents. As SARF and the ongoing work in Lumberton demonstrate, state and local governments can support voluntary, post-disaster transitions of people and minimize negative impacts to individuals, communities, and local tax bases from buyouts by reinvesting in underserved areas within their municipalities.