In November 2012, ACUNS and the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School co-hosted with TECO-New York a seminar on “What is the State of the Art in Preparing for Extreme Weather Events?”. Details of that seminar can be found here. ACUNS continues to cooperate with the Center for Climate Change Law and with TECO-New York, and will co-host another seminar – on climate change and renewable energy – on 26 November 2013 at Columbia University ( The Handbook publication noted here was produced separately and independently as indicated: it will be of great interest to anyone engaged in research and/or practice related to disaster response and risk planning of this sort.

Managed Coastal Retreat Handbook

On the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Columbia’s Center for Climate Change Law has published a new book, “Managed Coastal Retreat: A Legal Handbook on Shifting Development Away from Vulnerable Areas,” which examines the many legal tools available to state and local governments to discourage or prevent development or redevelopment along risky coasts and other areas susceptible to natural hazards.

Managed retreat-the planned process of moving development away from vulnerable areas-is a controversial concept as many homeowners would prefer to rebuild after a destructive storm and to take their chances that it will not recur or to rely on protective structures, such as seawalls, to prevent future damage. But more frequent and intense storms are projected in the coming decades, and massive public spending for construction that may be washed away is not always the best path. Policymakers increasingly will need to restrict allowed land uses to limit exposure to coastal hazards, save lives, and reduce the expenditure of public funds. The report describes legal principles and precedents that can serve as useful guides for the creation of new policies. The handbook also compiles and examines case studies and makes recommendations based on the experiences of numerous states and municipalities that have faced destructive storms and other natural hazards and implemented managed retreat to protect against future disasters. Among the tools discussed are coastal planning; setbacks and rolling easements; prohibiting coastal armoring; rebuilding restrictions; and land acquisition.

In addition to describing existing legal tools and state and local laws and regulations, the handbook details implementing policies that have affected the success or failure of each managed retreat strategy. The guide also identifies lessons that can help other communities improve their efforts.

The report was written by Anne Siders, former associate director of the Center for Climate Change Law, under the direction of Professor Michael B. Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and the Center’s director. Columbia Law School students, including participants in the Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic, also helped prepare the report.

The report is available for download as a PDF or on the Columbia website:

Featured Image Photo Credit: UN Photo / Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH


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