In 2016, Tybee Island became the first community in Georgia and one of the first in the entire Southeast United States to adopt a municipal sea level rise plan.
Project Lead: Charles Hopkinson, former director of University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant
Partners: University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Stetson University, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Savannah-Chatham County Metropolitan Planning Commission
Funding: $167,975 from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant Program
The Tybee Island Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan used a participatory approach to assess current and future flooding risks and explore potential adaptation actions to make the island more resilient over time. The plan helped improve the City’s rating under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System (CRS). Due to Tybee Island’s planning and outreach efforts, the City’s CRS rating went from a class 7 to 5, resulting in a 25% discount in flood insurance for properties located in high risk areas.
The project’s planning process and public engagement strategies received widespread national acclaim, earning the 2017 University Economic Development Association Award of Excellence in the Place Category and Sea Grant’s highest national outreach award in 2014.
Project researchers worked with citizens and public officials to identify a series of five adaptation actions for their potential to make the City of Tybee Island more resilient to sea level rise and coastal flooding. While it is acknowledged that other kinds of sea level rise adaptation approaches may be required in the future, identification and consideration of these five actions was regarded as an initial step for long-term sea level rise planning. In the years since approving the plan, the City has implemented almost every recommendation, making Tybee Island more resilient to current and future flooding, protecting community assets, infrastructure, private property, revenue, public safety and quality of life.