Old US Highway 80 on Tybee Island floods during the supermoon high tide on May 6, 2012.
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University of Georgia and Georgia Sea Grant help Tybee Island prepare for potentially rising seas

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government and Georgia Sea Grant have been awarded $98,985 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a climate adaptation plan for the barrier island community of Tybee Island.

The recommendations developed by the project, titled the Sea Grant Community Climate Adaptation Initiative, will help the City of Tybee Island prepare for and adapt to sea level rise through appropriate local ordinances, infrastructural improvements, and other municipal actions.

“This will be the first time in Georgia that we will have a barrier island community look at sea level rise adaptation,” said Jason Evans, a lead team member in the project. Evans is an environmental sustainability analyst with the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Environmental Policy Program, where he helps state and local leaders examine and develop comprehensive environmental management policies and practices.

The plan will be developed through a series of workshops with the Tybee Island community, in which stakeholders will identify vulnerable assets, such as infrastructure, housing stock and critical facilities, and formulate measures to deal with problems like flooding and more frequent high tides.

To facilitate the planning process, the team will utilize two models to predict future sea level rise. A program to assist decision-making known as the Vulnerability Consequences Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) will help prioritize the importance of the community’s assets while the Coastal Adaptation to Sea level rise Tool (COAST), an advanced geographic information system package, will illustrate the impact of specific storm surges and coastal flooding scenarios.

“We are going to work with the community to come up with a list of vulnerabilities that they see and interface those with very detailed scenario models of sea level rise effects on Tybee Island,” said Evans. “It should help prioritize what the community wants to do in order to mitigate and adapt to the changes.”

Results from these models will be used as a foundation for prioritizing, developing timescales, and initiating municipal finance planning for the development of the adaptation action plan. Outreach and extension support from Georgia Sea Grant, Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, UGA Marine Extension Service and other state agencies will be provided throughout the implementation period.

“We have every indication scientifically that sea level rise is going to be affecting us in Georgia, in the nation and around the world,” said Evans. “We hope this project will provide a template for other Georgia communities to follow.”

For more information, please contact Jason Evans at jevans@cviog.uga.edu or 706-542-2808.

Update: Videos of the March 2013 and August 2012 sea level rise adaptation meetings on Tybee Island are available on the City of Tybee website.

Georgia Sea Grant
Georgia Sea Grant is part of a national program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that engages research and outreach expertise from colleges, universities and research institutes throughout Georgia in support of programs that promote the economic, cultural and environmental health of Georgia’s coast and local communities. Georgia Sea Grant is housed at UGA, a land- and sea-grant institution.

UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government is a public service and outreach unit of UGA that helps build more effective governments through assistance and training for state and local government officials.


City of Tybee IslandThe City of Tybee Island, Ga., is on the outermost barrier island of the Savannah area coast. With a wild bird sanctuary, over three miles of ocean beaches, salt marshes on the Back River and eight miles of bike routes, outdoor recreation activities abound for visitors to this bicycle friendly community. As a key defense point to the important Savannah port, Tybee’s Fort Screven, Tybee Fort Theater, Fort Pulaski and the Tybee Island and Cockspur Lighthouses combine with the unique architectures of the island’s raised cottages to form a rich backdrop for history buffs. The Marine Science Center cooperates with Georgia’s DNR to protect threatened sea turtle species by searching for nests, protecting their eggs, and making sure hatchlings make it to sea.

Writer: Lacey Avery, 706/542-3463, averyla@uga.edu
Contact: Jason Evans, 706.542.2808, 
jevans@cviog.uga.edu
May 7, 2012