Wisconsin Coastal GIS Applications Project
A Resource Guide for Great Lakes Coastal Hazards in Wisconsin
David A. Hart
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
This resource guide seeks to consolidate information about natural hazards affecting the
Great Lakes coast in Wisconsin. It includes general information and links to other sites
about techniques to manage or mitigate coastal hazards and strategies developed by government
institutions to address coastal hazards in Wisconsin.
It is designed to be a "living document" that can be updated and
expanded as conditions change and more information becomes available.
Disclaimer. The resource guide was originally completed in September 1997 as part of an
Independent Work class (URPL 999) in the Urban and Regional Planning Department at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison under the direction of Prof. Stephen Born.
As of this time, the resource guide has not undergone extensive peer review.
I welcome any comments, critiques, or suggestions for improvements or additions.
Please contact me by email at dahart *at* wisc.edu or by phone at (608) 262-6515.
The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program has characterized three primary types
of natural hazards affecting the state's Great Lakes shore. These are:
- Erosion of coastal bluffs, banks, beaches and near shore lake beds;
- Flooding from upland runoff, high lake levels and storm-induced
surge (temporary water level changes); and,
- Damage to shoreline structures from storm waves (WCMP 1992, p. 85).
The hazards associated with living along the shores of the Great Lakes
tend to appear in cycles. One illustration is bluff erosion, which is more
likely to occur during storm events that coincide with periods of high water
levels in the Great Lakes. Awareness of coastal hazards seems to ebb and flow
in cycles too. Coastal property owners are acutely aware of hazards during
periods of high water levels and especially right after a damaging storm or
a bluff failure, but this awareness fades over time as the threat to coastal
This period of heightened awareness is an opportune time to address coastal
hazards issues, at least from the standpoint of public perception. Water levels
in the Great Lakes, however, are currently on the low end of their range.
The last period of significantly higher lake levels was during 1996-98. The previous
period of high lake levels was 1985-86, which resulted in $16 million of documented damage
to public facilities alone (WCMP 1992, p. 85).
Vulnerability to Bluff Erosion in Wisconsin
Many areas of the Wisconsin Great Lakes coast are vulnerable to bluff erosion.
In general, the erodible sections of the Lake Michigan shore are from the Illinois state
line to the Sturgeon Bay Canal in Door County and northeastern Brown County on Green Bay.
Along the remainder of the Lake Michigan shore, bluff erosion is limited to smaller segments
of bays and clay banks. On the Lake Superior shore, bluff erosion is more localized.
Vulnerability is highest along the high clay bluffs running from Bark Point in Bayfield County
to Wisconsin Point in Douglas County and from Iron County to the White River in Ashland County
(Springman and Born 1979, pp. 6-11).
Vulnerability to Coastal Flooding in Wisconsin
Coastal flooding is a serious issues along two low-lying sections of the Lake Michigan
shore: southern Kenosha County and the western shore of Green Bay from the City of Green Bay
to the Michigan state line (WCMP 1992, Addendum p. 1).
Variable Lake Levels
Water levels in the Great Lakes fluctuate on both a seasonal and long-term basis.
On a seasonal basis, the lowest levels are during the winter when much of the precipitation
is held on land as snow and ice. The highest seasonal levels are during the summer.
Long-term variation of lake levels depends on precipitation and evaporation trends in the
Great Lakes watershed. The water volume of the Great Lakes is large and outflow from
natural outlets is limited. Flow regulation structures exist in Lakes Ontario, Michigan and
Superior, but their influence is limited by their size and the need to regulate water levels
for multiple interests including shipping. Lake levels rise when net water supply exceeds
outflow and above average lake levels can persist for extended periods even after the conditions
that caused them have ended. Table 1 shows characteristics of recent high lake levels in Lake
Michigan and Table 2 shows characteristics of recent low lake levels.
Table 1. Recent Lake Michigan High Lake Level Periods
High Lake Level Periods
Peak Monthly Average
Source: COE, Detroit District
Table 2. Recent Lake Michigan Low Lake Level Periods
Low Lake Level Periods
Peak Monthly Average
175.87 m (provisional)
Source: COE, Detroit District
The following methods for coastal erosion hazard reduction were listed in the 1990 report by the
National Research Council titled Managing Coastal Erosion.
Building and Land Use Management
- Beach Nourishment
- Beach nourishment is the excavation of sand from one
location and its placement on an existing beach to expand
its extend seaward. Examples exist of both successful and
unsuccessful beach nourishment projects. If consideration is not
given to littoral transport patterns, much of the sand can be lost
in a short period of time. Beach nourishment, along
with sand bypassing and dune building are examples of "soft"
structural engineering techniques (NRC 1990, pp 56-57).
- Sand Bypassing
- Coastal features such as harbors and navigation channels can disturb
the movement of sediment in the littoral zone. Sand bypassing restores the natural
flow of sediment downdrift of human-constructed barriers through the use of
fixed or floating pumping systems (NRC 1990, p 61).
- Dune Building
- Dunes hold a supply of sand that aids in prevention of wave and
flood damage during storm events. Artificial dunes have been constructed
to mimic natural systems (NRC 1990, p 61).
- Groins are structures constructed perpendicular to the shore which
are designed to reduce sediment transport along the shore. Groins can
expand the beach on the updrift side of the structure, but erode the
downdrift side (NRC 1990, p 59).
- Seawalls and Revetments
- Seawalls are generally constructed on shorelines that are eroding. They
require proper engineering, without which they can accelerate erosion. Seawalls
are expensive to construct and maintain (NRC 1990, pp 59-60).
- Offshore Breakwaters
- Offshore breakwaters are designed to reduce wave energy reaching the shore and
promote sediment deposition on the protected side of the structure. Breakwaters
can also be constructed that do not extend above the water surface and absorb
most but not all the wave energy. Breakwaters are expensive to construct (NRC 1990, p 60-61).
The following approaches to damage reduction from shore erosion were identified
in the 1979 report titled Wisconsin's Shore Erosion Plan: An
Appraisal of Options and Strategies authored by Springman and Born:
- Setback Requirements
- Horizontal setbacks from the shore have been implemented primarily at
the state level. They take three forms: natural resource protection statutes;
fixed setback lines; and average annual recession rate setbacks. Fixed setbacks
can be based on a variety of reference features: the seaward toe of primary dunes;
the line of vegetation; the edge of the eroding bluff; mean high water; or a specified
contour level (NRC 1990, pp 62-64).
- The feasibility of relocation depends partly on the size and condition of the
structure and on the amount space remaining on the parcel. Problems to relocation
include zoning, mortgage refinancing, utility relocation, and loss of view or shoreline
access (NRC 1990, pp 66-67).
- Construction Requirements
- Construction requirements to minimize damage from hazards include elevation of
the lowest floor of the structure above the 100-year wave crest elevation and connection
of structural members to withstand wind damage (NRC 1990, p 67).
- Land Acquisition
- Land acquisition involves public purchase of land subject to erosion damage and
dedication to public purposes such as recreation or habitat preservation (NRC 1990, pp 67-68).
- Public Infrastructure Investment
- Public infrastructure investment includes the location of roads, sewers,
and other utilities to influence the pattern and density of development to
minimize the future losses to coastal hazards (NRC 1990, p 68).
- Community Education Programs
- Community education programs inform coastal constituencies about coastal hazards and
appropriate management practices. Examples include homeowner guides, public posting
of hazard areas, and information dissemination (NRC 1990, p 68).
Those alternatives identified as structural or remedial approaches to damage reduction include:
Those alternatives identified as non-structural or preventative approaches to damage reduction include:
- Revetments/Sea Walls
Springman and Born 1979. pp. 41,57,77-106.
- Regulatory Techniques (Zoning/Land Use Regulation)
- Nonregulatory Techniques (Acquisition, Relocation, Hazard Disclosure)
NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1451-1464) requires that federal
agencies conducting activities within a state's coastal zone comply to the maximum extent practicable
with an approved state coastal zone program (Emmer and Calvert 1992, p. 26).
The NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) has review and oversight responsibility
over the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for the administration of the National
Flood Insurance Program (42 U.S.C. 4001-4128) and emergency response in the case of natural
disasters. To participate in the NFIP, communities must satisfy FEMA's regulations for floodplain
management. Through the NFIP, FEMA works with the state and local governments to reduce
damages in floodprone areas (Emmer and Calvert 1992, p. 25).
FEMA Coastal Erosion Impact Study
Most FEMA floodplain mapping covers hazard areas associated with riverine settings.
Areas that have a one percent chance of flooding or greater are designated as an "A-zone"
on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).
In coastal settings, an additional designation is made on FIRMs, termed the "V-zone".
This is where damage may be caused by wave action from high velocity wind storms.
At present, the NFIP does not cover gradual erosion, but does cover losses due to
storm events. If a structure falls victim to coastal erosion on a non-storm day, the losses are
not covered. The NFIP also does not apply in situations where a loss is expected soon, but has
not yet occurred (termed an "imminent loss"), although such losses were covered under the
Upton/Jones program from 1988 to 1995. (Crowell, 1997, p. 24).
As a result of the passage of the National Flood Insurance
Reform Act (NFRIA) of 1994, FEMA is required to submit a report to Congress that evaluates the
economic impact of erosion and erosion mapping on coastal communities and on the NFIP.
The study must meet the following requirements: (1) determine coastal communities prone to
erosion, estimate the number of flood insurance claims that are attributable to erosion, and
"map a statistically valid and representative number of communities with erosion hazard areas
throughout the United States (three 10 mile sections of Racine, Ozaukee, and Manitowoc Counties
are included in the Wisconsin section); (2) "assess the full economic impact of erosion on the National
Flood Insurance Fund; and (3) "determine the costs and benefits of expenditures necessary from the
National Flood Insurance Fund to complete mapping of erosion hazard areas." (Crowell, 1997, p. 25).
The study is divided into three phases and the final report must be submitted to Congress
in 1999. Phase I covers mapping of erosion hazard areas, determining 60-year erosion hazard
areas (EHAs) in a representative sample of communities. Phase II inventories structures
located within the 60-year EHA, as well as current and projected flood zones. Phase III is
the economic impact analysis of erosion and erosion mapping to be conducted by a "private
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) achieves its regulatory authority from the
Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C.A. 401-406) and the Clean Water Act,
Section 404 (33 U.S.C.A. 1251-1376). Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act
prohibits the unauthorized obstruction of any navigable waters of the United States.
Alterations include the excavation from or depositing of materials in navigable waters
or other actions that affect the course, location, condition, or capacity of navigable
water (Emmer and Calvert 1992, pp. 15-16).
COE Lake Michigan Potential Damages Study
In 1996, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District and the Waterways Experiment
Station initiated a study of potential damages along the coastlines of Lake Michigan.
The study objectives as indicated from the notes of the kickoff meeting held
November 20-21, 1996 are as follows:
The study scope from the November 1996 meeting notes are as follows:
- Develop a potential damage model, or series of inter-related model packages, that
provide reliable economic estimates to support shoreline management approaches for
Lake Michigan and improvements in Lake Superior outflow control.
- Develop an effective and defensible approach that can be applied to each of the
other Great Lakes.
- Develop methodologies for updating economic estimation techniques over time.
- Improve both scientific and public understanding of erosion processes.
- Develop public information strategies for Lake Michigan coastal problems.
- Revisit and redefine Lake Michigan trigger levels for crisis response measures.
The draft task list for the Potential Damages Study as of January 1997 is as follows:
- The Study needs to address all potential damages in the riparian zone including
flooding, erosion, wave attack on structures, pumping costs, recreational benefits/disbenefits,
habitat values, etc.
- The Study needs to explicitly address losses due to potential low water conditions.
- The Study needs to generate economic estimates of a variety of prospective water level
conditions under "what if" scenarios.
- These water level scenarios must be explicit derivations of natural ranges (basis of
comparison, extended natural ranges, modified low range, modified higher range, etc.)
- The study will not evaluate any alternate water level control scenario (these were
addressed under the prior reference study).
- The Study needs to determine relationships between static water levels, storm rises, and
risks and must not ignore storm frequencies and duration complexities.
- The Study needs to address the economics of structural protection and infrastructure
design and construction and potential avoided costs thereof as related to various
water level scenarios considered (e.g., design levels of USACE confined disposal areas).
- The Study should address governance costs of coastal zone management activities including
local, regional, state, and federal programs.
- Organize Study
- Determine Hydrologic Scenarios to be Assessed
- Determine Economic Approaches
- Choose Planning Horizons and Long-Range Methods
- Identify Structural Protection Considerations
- Determine Avoided Cost Treatment
- Determine Market Value Treatment
- Generate Future Update Procedures
- Coastal Processes Investigations
- Assess Recession Rate Data
- Determine New Recession Rates
- Modify Geomorphic Classifications
- Modify Structural Protection Factors
- Identify Sediment Transport Effects
- Determine Bluff Stability Consideration
- Evaluate Shoreline Profile Data Needs
- Collect Necessary Shoreline Profile Data
- Generate Wave Energy Data
- Conduct Erosion Process Modeling
- Generate Needed Basemaps and Imagery (Current Basemaps/Imagery and Historic Imagery)
- Land Use Investigations (Current and Trends)
- Potential Damages Investigations
- Determine Residential Property Losses
- Determine Commercial-Industrial-Institutional Property Losses
- Determine Community-Based Property Losses
- Social Impact Assessments
- Review Likely Environmental Impacts
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
The WCMP is administratively housed in the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Energy and
Intergovernmental Relations. The WCMP carries out a networked form of management, with reliance on
coordination of existing agencies and institutions to improve coastal policy development and regulation.
This contrasts with state coastal management agencies with broad powers to enforce regulations such as
the California Coastal Commission. The WCMP relies on grants to local governments, technical assistance
and information dissemination to carry out its mission (Born and Miller, 1988).
The WCMP lists the following as its primary objectives:
- Improve the implementation and enforcement of state statutes, policies, regulations,
and programs affecting the Great Lakes,
- Improve the coordination of federal, state, and local activities affecting key coastal uses and areas,
- Strengthen local government capabilities to undertake effective coastal management,
- Advocate the wise and balanced use of coastal resources, and,
- Increase public awareness and opportunity for citizens to participate in decisions affecting
the Great Lakes resources.
Program oversight is provided by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Council, whose 15 members
are appointed by the Governor. The majority of funding for the WCMP is provided by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, NOAA, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, under the auspices
of the National Coastal Zone Management Program.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is responsible for implementing state and federal
laws that protect and enhance Wisconsin's natural resources (Wisconsin Blue Book 1995-1996 p. 478).
Specific functions related to Great Lakes coastal hazards include floodplain management and
shoreland zoning regulations. WDNR is the agency that implements most of the WCMP's enforceable
Wisconsin Emergency Management
The mission statement of Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) is "to utilize effective planning, training,
and coordination to continually develop the mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities
of the State and its subdivisions for emergencies resulting from all hazards." The organizational
structure of WEM includes a Natural Disaster Program, which oversees hazards analysis, natural disaster
standard operating procedures, hazards response and recovery checklists for county emergency management
directors, and guidelines for assessing and documenting disaster damage. Hazard mitigation, defined
as any actions taken to eliminate or reduce the long-term risk to human life and property from hazards, is
an important component of WEM (WEM Home Page).
Regional Planning Commissions
Regional Planning Commissions advise local units of government on the planning and delivery
of public services to the citizens of a defined region, and they must prepare and adopt master
plans for the physical development of the regions they serve. Regional planning provides a way
to discuss problems that transcend local government boundaries and can offer joint solutions that
could not be achieved without intergovernmental cooperation (Wisconsin Blue Book 1995-1996, p.552).
A total of 15 counties border on the Great Lakes in Wisconsin. Coastal counties account for
19 percent of the area of the state, yet make up 39 percent of the population. Coastal counties
range from very sparsely populated to highly urban.
The Great Lakes coast in Wisconsin can be divided into three sections based on population density
characteristics. The southern four counties (Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, and Ozaukee) have the
greatest population density at 1,218 people per square mile. Much of the southeast Wisconsin
coast is part of the urban corridor which stretches between Milwaukee and Chicago. The southern
counties contain the coastal cities of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Cudahy, Oak Creek, Mequon,
St. Francis, and Port Washington.
The northern section of the Lake Michigan coast contains seven counties
(Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee, Door, Brown, Oconto, and Marinette) and has a
moderate population density of 101 people per square mile. The section includes
the coastal cities of Green Bay, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Marinette, Two Rivers,
Sturgeon Bay, Oconto, Algoma, and Kewaunee. Much of the shoreline fronts Green Bay.
Door County possesses the most extensive Great Lakes shoreline in Wisconsin at 240 miles.
The Lake Superior coast includes four counties (Iron, Ashland, Bayfield, and Douglas).
The population density is notably less than in the Lake Michigan counties at 17 people
per square mile. The shore is less developed and includes the Apostle Islands National
Lakeshore, the Brule River State Forest, the Bad River Indian Reservation, the Red Cliff
Indian Reservation, and county forest in Bayfield and Iron Counties. This section includes
the cities of Superior, Ashland, Washburn, and Bayfield (Hart et al 1995, p. 391).
Lake Superior Coastal Counties
Lake Michigan Coastal Counties
This report was prepared "to serve as the basis for public policy formulation" regarding
shore erosion in Wisconsin.
The Table of Contents is as follows:
The Springman/Born report identifies the following factors influencing the development
and implementation of damage reduction strategies:
- Chapter I. Introduction
- Chapter II. An Overview of Shore Erosion in Wisconsin
- Chapter III. Establishing a Framework for Action
- Chapter IV. Remedial Approaches to Damage Reduction: Structural Alternatives
- Chapter V. Preventative Approaches to Damage Reduction: Nonstructural Alternatives
- Chapter VI. Setting the Course: Some Final Considerations
Springman and Born recognized that key factors affecting shore erosion are changing and
that there are missing data, but that local officials must base decisions on the best
available data. They recommended systematic and continuous monitoring of land use and
erosion hazards along the coast. Several research investigations were suggested, including:
identification of potential problems caused by protection devices; inventory of sand generation
areas; review of erosion mitigation techniques along medium to high bluffs; and improved
decision-making tools for damage reduction planning. Interstate coordination and cooperation
was suggested as a means to better understand impacts near state boundaries and to promote
more efficient and effective multi-state data collection efforts (Springman and Born 1979. pp 108-111).
- No single alternative will bring about a major reduction in losses from erosion
and flooding, but the potential exists to bring about a major reduction over time through
a strategy which combines all available alternatives.
- It appears that Federal, State, and local agencies have authority and
programs to assist in planning and implementing many of the alternatives
[discussed in the report].
- Extensive public funding support is not available for protection of
privately owned property.
- Future losses should be controlled by nonstructural land use controls whenever
possible and structural means should be employed only as supplemental management
efforts when needed to adequately protect vulnerable lands from excessive erosion
- In most instances, permanent structural control measures cannot be justified
economically for protection of extensive reaches of shoreline, especially as short-term
solutions (Springman and Born 1979. p 108).
Finally, the report ends with a series of questions about alternative
actions in three broad policy areas: improving the state and local framework for
regulating protective structures; adopting a state policy regarding structural measures and defining the
state assistance role; and determining what nonstructural strategies to pursue. Many of these
questions are still relevant now (perhaps even more relevant, given the current
high water levels), nearly 20 years after the release of the plan. The questions are as follows:
Improving the Regulatory Framework
State Structural Policy and Role
- Is there a need to specify or modify the basis on which permitting decisions are made?
- Is there a need to improve the quality and consistency of the review itself (by improving
the technical capacity for reviewing permit applications via training, by improved
information dissemination and use, etc)?
- Does the process by which these decisions are made need clarification?
- Can the efficiency of the regulatory process by increased (by improved and
more systematic coordination among involved agencies at all levels, by streamlining the
permit application review process, by standardizing forms, etc.)?
- Assuming that the condition and criteria under which erosion protection structures are
authorized and acceptable, and that interest in structural approaches will continue in
the future, in addition to regulation, what role (if any) should government play?
- Should there be any form of state financial assistance for structural measures?
- If so, what should be the nature of state funding? full funding? cost-sharing?
low interest loans?
- And what activities should be eligible (construction, engineering feasibility studies)?
- Or should the state simply maintain a capability to provide non-financial assistance
to those interested in structural erosion protection (by providing information and
sources of data and assistance, disseminating Coastal Program technical data and new
research findings, etc.)?
Source: Springman and Born 1979, pp. 107-113
- In erosion-prone areas, which of these [regulatory and nonstructural preventative options]
should be pursued, if any, and by whom?
- For example, in largely undeveloped areas, which of the nonstructural strategies ... should
- What should the respective roles of state and local government be in any such undertaking?
- In developed areas, what role should regulatory options such as land management play in
- And how can acquisition and relocation strategies be encouraged, where appropriate, in
- Should there be mandatory disclosure of hazard warnings tied to real estate transactions?
- Or should disclosure efforts be voluntary, such as educational efforts targeted at financial
institutions , realtors, and prospective buyers?
- ...[S]hould state agencies and local governments be encouraged to adopt the guidelines for
damage reduction presented [in the report].
WCMP Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy (1993-1997)
This document was submitted to the NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.
It includes sections on a number of national coastal management priority issues, including
natural hazards. The contents of the natural hazards section is as follows:
OCRM requested that WCMP answer a series of additional questions regarding
the natural hazards section. The response of the Natural Hazards Work Group was
included as an addendum to the Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy. The
questions centered on the following topics:
- Legislative Objectives
- Characterization of the Issue
- Characterization of Existing Programs
- Programmatic Objectives
- Strategy for Wisconsin's Coastal Natural Hazards Program
The final question posed in the addendum asks "If Wisconsin attempts
to improve its management of coastal hazards, what will be the most
most important factor in meeting this goal?" The key factor stated
was improved information about coastal hazards. Without detailed
information, the effectiveness of a coastal hazards management program
would be undermined.
- Types of Coastal Hazards and Development Patterns
- General Questions
- Effectiveness of NR 115
- Effectiveness of NR 117
- Effectiveness of NR 116
- Effectiveness of Chapter 30
- Other Questions
- Summary of Problems and Possible Solutions
Source: Wisconsin Coastal Management Program 1992, pp. 85-97, Addendum
During the period covered by this needs assessment, WCMP undertook
three major studies to provide better information about coastal hazards.
Inventory of Development
The inventory of development was completed by Prof. William Niedzwiedz at
the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The inventory assesses coastal development
between 1978 and 1992. Aerial photographs from the Corps of Engineers were utilized
to collect information on buildings on buildings, land use, and shoreline protection
structures within 1000 feet of the coast. Information was collected on acetates for
each PLSS section and then summarized by township and county in individual reports for
each coastal county (WCMP Recession Rate Study RFP, 1995).
Bluff Stability Update
Updates to a bluff stability study were undertaken in the late 1970s by
Professors Tuncer Edil and David Mickelson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The updates were conducted by SEWRPC and Bay-Lake RPC with technical help from
Professors Edil and Mickelson. The study area consists of the southern seven
Lake Michigan counties in Wisconsin. The study utilized geologic field techniques
and comparisons between current and 20-year old oblique aerial photos to examine the
same 40 study reaches used in the 1977 study. Information gathered includes projected
recession lines, recession rates, beach width, soil parameters, slope geometry, and
lake bed composition (WCMP Recession Rate Study RFP, 1995).
Recession Rate Study
A study of recession rates using state-of-the-art photogrammetric
methods was undertaken by the consultant team of SEH/Baker. The study covered
10-mile sections of the coast in Racine, Ozaukee, and Manitowoc Counties. The
study was designed to update and improve the accuracy of earlier recession
rate studies, test new recession rate methods on a variety of coastlines.
Recession setbacks were forecasted for 30 and 60-year periods using a combination
of stable bluff angles and projected recession. Several data sets were incorporated
into a GIS format, including: 1992/1995 orthophotos, 1952/1956 orthophotos,
digital elevation models, the inventory of development, baseline and transects,
major roads, political subdivisions, and 30 and 60 year recession lines (SEH/Baker
1997, pp. 1-3).
WCMP Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy (1997-2001)
This document was submitted to the NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.
It includes sections on a number of national coastal management priority issues, including
natural hazards. The contents of the natural hazards section is as follows:
Source: Wisconsin Coastal Management Program 1997, pp. 35-44
- Coastal Hazard Characterization (Changes Since the Last Assessment --
Risks from Inappropriate Development)
- Management Characterization
- Programmatic Objectives
- Direct future public and private development and redevelopment away
from hazardous areas, including the high hazard areas delineated as
FEMA V-zones and areas vulnerable to inundation from lake level rise.
- Preserve and restore the protective functions of natural shoreline features
such as beaches, dunes and wetlands.
- Prevent or minimize threats to existing populations and property from both
episodic and chronic coastal hazards
- 309 Strategy for Natural Hazards
- Continue updating and integrating information and methods in
GIS compatible format regarding shoreline hazards.
- Existing shoreline erosion information is being updated, but needs to be
integrated and systematized. A key element to achieve the programmatic objectives
is to have accurate information regarding erosion hazards for the entire coastline.
During the past three years, the WCMP has used Section 309 funds to update data as
described in the previous section. So far, however, only a small portion of the
coast has updated recession rate mapping. There is also a need to coordinate data
gathering and use by different agencies and interested parties at the state and local
- Develop a comprehensive education and dissemination program.
- An important non-regulatory hazards component is to focus on disseminating
information regarding erosion rates and disclosure of erosion hazard and flood-prone
areas. The information should be directed at the general public, public officials
(to use the most accurate information and methods), the private sector (i.e. developers,
bankers, insurance companies), etc.) and other interested parties. The education and
dissemination component could be accomplished by providing technical assistance.
The main goal is to provide information about preventative approaches to dealing with
- Develop an institutional framework to improve the State's
- High water periods in the 1950s and 1970s, and record high lake levels in the
1980s, have contributed significantly to erosion along Wisconsin's Great Lakes shorelines.
High lake levels, in combination with intense development along the coast, have resulted in
increased property damage. A formal, state-wide mechanism is needed to deal with natural
hazards, as the current regulatory framework is not adequate. More coordination is needed
between the state and local units of government, as lake levels in 1997 once again rise toward
record high elevations.
WCMP Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy (2002-2006)
For the next five years, the WCMP will focus on further developing the program to deal effectively
and consistently with coastal hazards. The three-pronged strategy has been developed in response to
the identified needs, and includes:
Source: Wisconsin Coastal Management Program 2001, pp. 5-16
- expansion of improved technical tools and methodologies for information handling in coastal
areas beyond pilot counties (i.e., methods, maps, data and new technologies, including GIS);
- an education and outreach component;
- an enhanced institutional framework and partnerships for potential regulatory changes.
The Strategy takes into account that the current low lake levels provide an opportunity to consolidate
planning efforts without having an imminent threat and a crisis mood. It also aims at filling data gaps
in specific issues (such as confirmation of lakebed erosion) and devoting balanced attention to coastal
areas in both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. It also considers the new information available on the
likelihood that protective structures might have a shorter life span than previously estimated and
consequently emphasizes the development of mitigation plans and urban vulnerability assessments.
The Strategy also seeks to gain support for the changes incorporated into the current model ordinance.
These changes consist primarily of technical specifications for the identification of hazard areas using
site specific information, such as planning horizon, source of recession rate and slope stability
information, and additional safety provisions due to the fact that new houses built near the shoreland
are larger than before making it difficult to relocate them in case of imminent threats.
The Strategy builds on the solid partnerships developed in the past few years through the Coastal
Hazards Work Group.
WCMP Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy (2006-2010)
The Work Plan for the Natural Hazards 2006-2010 multi-year strategy entails three parts. These steps will overlap in time over the next five years:
Source: Wisconsin Coastal Management Program 2006, pp. 9-20
- Expansion of technical tools and technology transfer
The WCMP will develop technical tools and methodologies and make the tools available to municipalities and individuals. The state will work to continue developing GIS and Web-based tools for coastal erosion, and will continue to update recession rates. In addition to developing the technology, the WCMP will work to ensure that the technology is transferred to users, such as regional planning commissions, municipalities, and individual property owners.
- Education and outreach
Education and outreach are important components of the natural hazards strategy. In a 2004 evaluation, NOAA described a continued focus on natural hazards education as “crucial to effect change, especially in areas where development has not encroached on sensitive areas, where lives and property may be in danger, and where development may cause degradation of resources.” The WCMP will develop education and outreach efforts in several ways. Distribution of technology and information that the WCMP has already developed will provide one means of educating the public. Distribution of reports to local officials, libraries, and landowners will help to educate coastal stakeholders. The WCMP will continue to develop coastal erosion education via the Web. Finally, the WCMP will develop workshops for coastal stakeholders.
- Coordination with municipalities and agencies
The WCMP will continue to provide technical assistance to coastal communities. This will include helping communities to develop defensible policies, including setback ordinances. Related to that, the WCMP will continue to promote adoption of a model setback ordinance beyond pilot communities. Furthermore, the WCMP will continue seeking ways to implement coastal hazard guidance into existing and developing policies. Such efforts will require coordination with other agencies, such as the Department of Natural Resources, regional planning commissions, and Wisconsin Emergency Management.
In summary, the focus of the 93-97 needs assessment was data collection on coastal
hazards, while the focus of the 97-00 needs assessment is update, integration, and
dissemination of that information, as well as changes in the regulatory framework
for managing coastal hazards.
Coastal Natural Hazards Information Needs
Information needs as presented by Phil Keillor to the COE Lake Michigan Potential Damages Study -
Plan of Study Workshop - January 22-24, 1997.
A Great Lakes Coastal Hazards Mitigation Workshop sponsored by
NOAA/OCRM and FEMA was held from August 24-26, 1997 in
Traverse City, Michigan. The purpose of the meeting was to encourage
interaction between coastal management, floodplain management, and
emergency management staff in the Great Lakes states in the development and implementation
of a coastal hazards mitigation strategy. Important topics discussed
at this meeting include:
- Credible, legally defensible methods for estimating future recession rates.
- Credible, easily understood methods for estimating storm wave runup.
- Methodology for estimating joint probabilities of high water levels and storm conditions.
- Substantiation of significant lakebed erosion.
- New recommendations for structural shore protection.
- Natural coastal hazard information in an easily-understood, updatable GIS format
As the FEMA coastal erosion study and the COE potential damages study are completed,
it will be important to develop mechanisms to integrate the products into state and
local government coastal hazards information systems.
- The need to review the recent bluff stability studies and determine the
appropriate design slope stability for use along different sections of the coast.
- The need to review and agree upon methods to calculate recession setbacks
and determine wave runup.
- The need to identify and map shore protection structures and associated permits.
- The need to utilize local government land information systems as a
source of information on riparian development.
- The need to include the top of bluff features on coastal mapping.
- The need to know more about the spatial and temporal variability
about coastal geomorphology.
- The need to know more about the near shore lakebed.
- The need to review mapping techniques for determining the ordinary
high water mark.
- The need to review the current local government regulations for coastal
recession setbacks and review the model ordinance developed by Yanggen.
- The need to include a coastal hazards component in the Wisconsin Emergency
Management Hazards Mitigation Plan.
Born, Stephen M. and Allen H. Miller. 1988. "Assessing Networked Coastal Zone
Management Programs." Coastal Management 16:229-243.
Crowell, Mark. 1997. "Coastal Erosion and the National Flood Insurance Program."
Shore and Beach (January 1997): 24-26.
Emmer, Rod and Linda Calvert. 1992. Federal, State, and Local Environmental Regulatory
and Review Responsibilities within the Pontchartrain Basin: Louisiana Prepared
for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. March 1992.
Hart, David, Bernard J. Niemann, Jr., Stephen J. Ventura, and Allen H. Miller. 1995.
"Support for Development of Coastal GIS Applications in Wisconsin." GIS/LIS '95
Proceedings Vol. 1, pp. 388-398.
Keillor and Miller. 1987. Coastal Processes Workbook: Evaluating the
Risks of Flooding and Erosion for Great Lakes Coastal Property. University
of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.
Levels Reference Study Board. 1993. Levels Reference Study: Great Lakes-St. Lawrence
River Basin. Submitted to the International Joint Commission. March 31, 1993.
National Research Council. 1990. Managing Coastal Erosion. Washington, DC:
National Academy Press.
SEH/Baker. 1997. Lake Michigan Recession Rate Study-Final Report
Springman, Roger and Stephen M. Born. 1979. Wisconsin's Shore Erosion Plan: An
Appraisal of Options and Strategies. Prepared for the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-North Central Division. 1978. Help Yourself: A Discussion of Erosion Problems
on the Great Lakes and Alternative Methods of Shore Protection
Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. 1995. State of Wisconsin 1995-1996 Blue Book.
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. 1992. State of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy. Wisconsin Department of Administration.
December 1, 1992.
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. 1995. "1996 Natural Hazards Grant Solicitation -
Request for Proposals." May 22, 1995.
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. 1997. State of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy '97-'00. Section on Natural Hazards (pp 35-44).
Wisconsin Department of Administration.
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. 2001. State of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy 2002-2006. Section on Natural Hazards (pp 5-16).
Wisconsin Department of Administration.
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. 2006. State of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
Needs Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy 2006-2010. Section on Natural Hazards (pp 9-20).
Wisconsin Department of Administration.
Great Lakes Levels and Hydrology Page (GLIN)
The National Marine and Coastal Geology Program (USGS)
Waterways Experiment Station - Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory Home Page (COE)
Glossary of Coastal Engineering Terms (COE)
UW Sea Grant/LICGF Coastal GIS Applications Project (includes coastal erosion GIS training exercise)
Great Lakes Information Network
Coastal Services Center (NOAA)
Josh Lott, Coastal Hazards Coordinator, NOAA-OCRM (301) 713-3155 ext. 178
Mark Crowell, Coastal Hazards, FEMA, (202) 646-3432
Duane Castaldi, Flood Hazard Mapping, FEMA-Region 5, (312) 575-3954
Scott Thieme, Hydraulics and Hydrology, COE-Detroit District (313) 226-6440
Michael Friis, Manager, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, (608) 267-7982
Kathleen Angel, Coastal Hazards Coordinator, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, (608) 267-7988
Gary Heinrichs, Floodplain Management, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, (608) 266-3093
Roxanne Gray, Hazard Mitigation Officer, Wisconsin Emergency Management, (608) 242-3211
Susan Boldt, Hazard Mitigation, Wisconsin Emergency Management, (608) 242-3214
Michael Hahn, Chief Environmental Engineer, Southeastern Wisconsin RPC, (262) 547-6722
Angela Pierce, Natural Resources Planner, Bay-Lake RPC, (920) 448-2820
Jason Laumann, Lake Superior Coastal Specialist, Northwest Wisconsin RPC, (715) 635-2197
Gene Clark, Coastal Engineering Specialist, UW Sea Grant, (715) 394-8472
David Hart, GIS Specialist, UW Sea Grant, (608) 262-6515
Tuncer Edil, Professor, UW-Madison Civil and Environmental Engineering, (608) 262-3225
David Mickelson, Professor Emeritus, UW-Madison Geology, (608) 262-7863
Chin Wu, Associate Professor, UW-Madison Civil and Environmental Engineering, (608) 263-3078
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Last modified by David Hart (dahart *at* wisc.edu) on July 2, 2007