Developing Legal Strategies for a Sustainable Coast

  • James G. Wilkins
Part of the Estuaries of the World book series (EOTW)


Legal mechanisms exist for moving people involuntarily from high risk areas but property rights issues and political costs may make such actions counterproductive. Takings law at the state level has narrowed the range of allowable public purposes for eminent domain. Eminent domain, however unpopular it is as a government function, may in some cases be the only option. Relocation assistance such as the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act can help lessen resistance to forced relocation but there are also a number of programs administered by FEMA and HUD that provide assistance for voluntary relocation. The limiting factor for any type of relocation is, almost invariably, money which depends on the political will of the governing bodies who appropriate funds. Large federal programs currently in existence, GOMSEA and RESTORE may be flexible enough to provide funding for hazard mitigation. Market forces, such as the escalating cost and availability of insurance, will at some point be the major driver of relocation and elevation in hazardous coastal areas. Proposed revisions to the National Flood Insurance Program have caused a great deal of anxiety and political backlash in flood prone communities but seem inevitable especially in light of climate change. The escalating cost of federal disaster relief will also be a factor in relocation and land use planning in high hazard areas. Taxpayers will tire of subsidizing repeated irresponsible decisions of individuals and local governments and the diminished availability of disaster relief will result in relocation. Local governments will be increasingly brought to task for poor land use planning decisions. There are several legal and policy changes that could affect the actions proposed in this book such as how structural protection is factored into the NFIP, making flood insurance mandatory; restricting disaster relief; increasing NFIP requirements on local governments; requiring developers to post bonds; requiring full disclosure of risk by the real estate industry; controlling and coordinating land use planning for hazard mitigation at the state level. Third party standards such as certified-flood-resistant or climate-smart-investment and private regulation such as real estate and lending institutions requiring flood insurance based on the extent of historic floods could be powerful market forces.


Eminent domain Relocation and property acquisition National flood insurance program Land use planning FEMA Disaster relief 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Louisiana Sea Grant Law and Policy Program, Center for Natural Resource Economics and PolicyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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