Maui News

Hawaiʻi Climate Commission Endorses Tools For Sea Level Rise Planning

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Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Viewer. Data provided by PacIOOS (, which is a part of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), funded in part by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Award #NA16NOS0120024.

The Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission endorsed tools to operationalize climate action during its October meeting. The tools are two guidance documents that supplement the recommendations of the state’s 2017 Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report.

These guidance documents, produced in support of the Commission’s Climate Ready Hawaiʻi Initiative, help state and county planners and government officials plan for growing impacts of sea level rise to communities, natural and cultural resources, and critical infrastructure.

The first document, Guidance for Addressing Sea Level Rise in Community Planning in Hawaiʻi, assists local government planners to “Integrate sea level rise adaptation plans and policies into state, county, and community plans.”  The guidance focuses on community planning as a critical entry point and public process to conduct locally-appropriate visioning and planning. It considers science-based information and adaptation actions to address coastal hazards with sea level rise as key considerations in making coastal communities more resilient and sustainable. The document includes recommended practices, examples, and resources to assist county and state government planners in addressing sea level rise and coastal hazards as part of existing planning frameworks.

The second document, Guidance for Using the Sea Level Rise Exposure Area in Local Planning and Permitting Decisions, was developed in response to requests from county planning departments and other stakeholders to provide further guidance on utilizing the Sea Level Rise Exposure Area (SLR-XA) in planning and permitting decisions while improving understanding of the methods, assumptions, and limitations of the data. It is a supplement to the 2017 Sea Level Rise Report and accompanying Hawaiʻi Sea Level Rise Viewer to assist planners, natural resource and infrastructure managers, and others with understanding and using the SLR-XA from the 2017 report in day to day planning and permitting decision.

These guidance tools are examples of interagency and interdisciplinary collaboration needed to prepare our communities for climate change and sea level rise and form a critical next step towards a more resilient and “Climate Ready Hawaiʻi.”

To support the results of this collaboration, the Climate Commission adopted the following statement in support of both documents at their October 2020 meeting:

“This document has been endorsed by the Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission to support implementation of recommendations in the Hawaiʻi Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report adopted by the Hawaiʻi Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission in October of 2017, and as a resource of the Climate Ready Hawaiʻi Initiative.”

“These tools to operationalize climate action provide vital science-based guidance to help prepare our coastal communities for climate change and sea level rise”, said Suzanne Case, Co-chair of the Climate Commission and Chair of DLNR. “They are the next in a series of resources that includes the 2017 Statewide Sea Level Rise Report, companion Sea Level Rise Viewer, and 2019 Guidance for Disaster Recovery Preparedness in Hawaiʻi, that are being developed through collaborations between the DLNR, the University of Hawaiʻi, and the Climate Commission and its member state and county agencies.

Lead authors Dr. Brad Romine and Dr. Shellie Habel, with Hawaiʻi Sea Grant explain that the impacts of sea level rise are affecting our communities statewide with increasing beach loss and flooding along low-lying shorelines. These guidance documents are intended to help State and county governments build on their ongoing efforts to prepare our communities for these growing risks.

The guides were developed through consultations and workshops with state and county agencies around Hawaiʻi and subject matter experts around the country. The community planning guidance was funded through a NOAA 2016 Coastal Resilience Grant and the DLNR. Both guidance documents were developed through a long-standing partnership between University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant and the DLNR – Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands. The Climate Commission was instrumental in coordinating the process for the second document, under its Climate Ready Hawaiʻi framework.


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