Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)
DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Management Program helps to preserve, protect, develop, and enhance Delaware’s coastal resources. The program provides technical assistance to communities and local governments for local land use planning and special on-the-ground projects. Its Sea Level Rise Inundation Maps serve as a tool for local governments to visualize the possible impacts of inundation based on various sea level rise scenarios. Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide: Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment for the State of Delaware, provides in-depth information on sea level rise and its potential impacts to Delaware’s natural resources, society, economy, public safety, and infrastructure. Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide: Recommendations for Adapting to Sea Level Rise in Delaware provides many recommendations that focus on building the capacity for Delaware agencies, local governments, businesses, and residents to plan for and implement strategies for adapting to sea level rise.
The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) aims to improve the understanding, stewardship, and appreciation of estuarine and coastal resources in Delaware through research, education, and technical assistance. Their Delaware Coastal Training Program provides scientific information and other assistance to Delawareans responsible for decisions regarding coastal resources. Resources range from seminars, hands-on skill training, and workshops. For instance, DNERR partners with the University of Delaware’s IPA, Delaware Sea Grant, Delaware Coastal Management Program, and DNREC’s Flood Mitigation Program in offering the Creating a Flood-Ready Community course. This workshop provides an overview of flood risks to Delaware communities and adaptation and mitigation measures to address these risks through community planning, codes, and ordinances. Workshop presentations include floodplain requirements for municipalities and various tools for adapting to flood risk.
DNREC’s Division of Energy and Climate establishes and maintains relationships with Delaware’s local governments. It coordinates the Department’s participation in the Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) process, a multi-agency review of major development proposals and comprehensive plans and land use ordinances. Additionally, the Division conducts monthly Planners Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) meetings to discuss planning issues and pending projects. Lastly, the Division publishes resources including The Delaware Climate Change Impact Assessment, which presents current and future risks of climate change based on the Climate Change Projections and Indicators for Delaware report and helps Delawareans prepare and adapt to climate change, and Climate Change in Delaware, which summarizes the Assessment report and provides additional resources.
DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship takes a comprehensive approach to floodplain and stormwater management. The Division maintains beaches and provides training and technical assistance to communities. The Watershed Assessment and Management Section provides technical support for water quality issues. The Shoreline and Waterway Management Section is responsible for the Flood Mitigation Program and works to ensure that local floodplain regulations are consistent with the minimum standards required for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The Floodplain and Drainage Advisory Committee issued Delaware Floodplain and Drainage Standards and Recommendations, recommending minimum floodplain and drainage standards in response to Senate Bill 64. The resulting model floodplain ordinances are highly recommended by DNREC as a way to reduce flood damage and subsequently lower flood insurance premiums. The following links provide information on higher floodplain ordinance standards adopted by local governments in:
Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)
Since Delaware is almost entirely surrounded by tidal waters, DelDOT, the steward of over 13,600 lane miles of roadway, is actively planning to address transportation system flooding associated with drainage issues, storms, high tides, and sea level rise. Studies indicate that up to five percent of the state’s total roadway mileage could be affected by in some way by future rising sea levels at 1.5 meters. The most significant effects will be seen on roadways near the eastern coastal area of the state, including significant areas of state route SR 9, SR 1, and SR 54. DelDOT continues to work with DNREC and other state agencies to analyze vulnerable assets and develop adaptive policies and practices.
DelDOT’s Planning Division provides inclusive and comprehensive transportation planning and permitting processes while balancing safety, environmental stewardship, economic development, and other factors. This division assists local governments with land use decision making responsibilities, coordinating zoning, subdivision, and annexation decisions. Their circuit-rider engineers also work with local public works officials to guide them on issues such as road maintenance and drainage issues.
Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC)
OSPC provides a range of services to Delaware’s local governments including facilitating the Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) process, coordinating comprehensive plan developments and updates, and providing technical planning assistance through countywide circuit-rider planners. OSPC also publishes the Delaware Strategies for State Policies and Spending, which helps coordinate land-use decision-making with the provision of infrastructure and services for efficient use of natural and fiscal resources. Lastly, their State of Delaware Comprehensive Plan Checklist and Municipal Comprehensive Plan Guide provides guidance on incorporating climate change and sea level rise into comprehensive plans.
Office of the Delaware State Climatologist
The Office of the Delaware State Climatologist translates environmental data to decision makers and the public. Its Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS) has a network of over 50 monitoring stations throughout the region. It provides real-time data and spatial mapping that can assist communities in assessing their flood and climate change vulnerabilities and risks.
University of Delaware
The Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) conducts geological and hydrologic research and provides free online publications. DGS also maintains stream and tide gages statewide, providing real-time and long-term streamflow data, and the Delaware Groundwater Monitoring Network. DGS contributes to the Delaware Coastal Flood Monitoring System, which provides real-time data for coastal communities. DGS can provide technical assistance and guidance to local governments on water resources, geology, and natural hazards.
Delaware Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Service (MAS) provides research, training, and outreach on coastal resiliency planning, recreation, tourism, watershed management, and coastal ecosystem’s health concerns. MAS has assisted Delaware coastal communities in planning for hazard mitigation and climate adaptation. Publications include the Delaware Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards, guiding residents on practical measures to minimize damage to their property and safety, and the Natural Hazard and Climate Change Adaptation Tool Kit for Delaware Communities, assisting communities in identifying planning, mitigation, and adaptation measures to reduce vulnerabilities to natural hazards and climate impacts.
The Institute for Public Administration’s (IPA) Planning Services staff provides assistance to Delaware local governments in developing and updating their comprehensive plans. IPA provides GIS mapping for local government planning, assistance with updating zoning ordinances, and other relevant aid to the many needs and challenges facing Delaware’s local governments. The Delaware Planning Education Program builds capacity of local government officials in planning and public policy topics. The Creating a Flood-Ready Community training, offered in partnership with DNERR, Delaware Sea Grant, and DNREC, provides professional guidance to local officials on ways to address flood risks to communities through community planning, codes, and ordinances.
The Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiatives (SCCI) is an initiative of UD’s College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, College of Earth, Ocean, & Environment, and IPA. SCCI deals with community planning for sustainability, sea level rise, coastal resiliency, and economic development. SCCI, along with Delaware Sea Grant, hosted a Community Exchange Workshop that highlighted resiliency projects such as Laurel Waterfront Redevelopment, Fenwick Island Home Elevation, Bowers Beach Flood Mitigation, Flood Mitigation Best Practices, Seaford-Virginia Avenue Flood Mitigation, and South Bethany Stormwater Retrofits.
The EPA glossary defines commonly used terms related to climate change. This resource focuses primarily on technical scientific terms.
FEMA has prepared a two-volume Coastal Construction Manual that can assist contractors, designers, and building code officials to identify and evaluate practices that will improve the quality of construction and reduce economic losses associated with coastal hazards. Volume I is geared towards design professionals, officials, and decision makers. It provides information about hazard identification, siting decisions, regulatory requirements, economic implications, and risk management. Volume II is intended for audiences familiar with building codes and standards and engineering principles. It describes design, construction, and maintenance practices that can increase a home’s resiliency to coastal natural disasters.
FEMA’s Integrating Hazard Mitigation Into Local Planning: Case Studies and Tools for Community Officials guides local officials on how to incorporate risk reduction strategies into existing local plans, policies, codes, and programs. The resource includes steps for local integration efforts, ideas for overcoming potential barriers, and case studies to highlight examples of integration in practice. Lastly, there are a number of associated fact sheets, such as Integrating Hazard Mitigation Into the Local Comprehensive Plan, which explains ways that resiliency could be integrated throughout various sections of the comprehensive plan.
FEMA’s Mitigation Ideas resource presents multiple mitigation actions that communities can implement to reduce risk to natural hazards and disasters. Local governments should visit the Flood section, which highlights measures related to local planning and regulations, structure and infrastructure projects, natural systems protection, and education and awareness programs.
NOAA’s Digital Coast, in addition to online trainings, provides a variety of tools and informational resources on climate adaptation. The Coastal County Snapshots tool allows counties to assess their exposure and resilience to flooding and can help with adaptation planning. The Sea Level Rise Viewer displays the flood impacts of various sea level scenarios; the tool also allows users to layer marsh impacts, nuisance flood frequency, and social and economic data. The Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper provides maps that show populations, structures, infrastructure, and natural resources exposed to coastal flooding. This tool is useful for community-based risk and vulnerability assessments. The Coastal Inundation Toolkit helps communities understand why inundation occurs, identify risks and vulnerabilities, visualize these risks and community impacts, communicate these threats and impacts, and discover additional best practices from a variety of case studies. Lastly, the Economic Framework for Coastal Community Infrastructure provides community leaders and planners with a framework for making more economically informed decisions regarding sea level rise and flood adaptation.
The Delaware Coastal Flood Monitoring System, managed by the Delaware Geological Survey and Delaware Environmental Observing System, is a resource to assess imminent weather and current conditions and can be used mainly for emergency management and mitigation efforts. However, there are a number of flood maps for select Delaware communities where users can visualize current flood levels in addition to potential increased levels.
Delaware Coastal Programs scientists have developed the Sea Level Rise Inundation Map to illustrate the potential impacts of flooding based on various sea level rise scenarios. Local governments can use this tool to assess risks and vulnerabilities of flooding to certain structures, infrastructure, and natural resources.
Delaware Sea Grant has produced Community Flood Map Visualizations of a variety of coastal communities, including Fenwick Island, Milford, South Bethany, and Lewes. This tool features an interactive before/after slider feature that allows the user to visualize the extent and depth of flooding for a variety of sea level rise scenarios. The site also links to additional information and resources related to flooding, FEMA flood maps, and flood insurance.
FIRMS are the official maps of communities on which FEMA has identified the special hazard areas and risk premium zones. These maps guide insurance rates, but should not be relied upon for adaptation planning as they are solely based on historical data. The following links display FIRMs for Delaware’s three counties:
NOAA’s interactive map allows local governments to visualize what various feet of sea level rise would look like in their respective communities. The NOAA map also features layers of social and economic Census data that one can overlay with sea level rise layers, so communities can visualize the potential impacts of sea level rise and flooding on vulnerable people and businesses.
Widener University School of Law’s Assessing the Legal Toolbox for Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Delaware: Options and Challenges for Regulators, Policymakers, Property Owners, and the Public, analyzes eight different legal tools (zoning, acquisition and buyback programs, building restrictions/prohibitions, setbacks and buffers, conservation easement, rolling easements, transferable development credits, and real estate disclosures) that local governments can use to implement adaptation strategies. The report describes each tool, how it can be used to adapt to sea level rise, and any legal issues that should be considered.
The Georgetown Climate Center Adaptation Tool Kit: Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use presents 18 different land-use tools that local governments can employ to adapt to the risks and vulnerabilities posed by sea-level rise. The resource analyzes each tool by the type of tool (regulatory, spending, planning, or market-based), policy objective (protection, accommodation, retreat, or preservation), and type of land-use the tool can be used to adapt (critical infrastructure, existing development, developable lands, and non-developable lands). It also includes an analysis of the economic, environmental, social costs and benefits as well as the legal and administrative feasibility of implementing each tool.
Delaware Sea Grant’s Tool Kit was developed to assist Delaware communities in identifying planning, mitigation, and adaptation opportunities to reduce vulnerabilities caused by natural hazards and climate impacts. The resource is divided into three sections: the first describes process-oriented materials centered on planning approach, committee selection, and workshops, the second focuses on knowledge-oriented materials such as current natural hazard and climate data, projected changes to natural hazards and climate, maps, and prioritizing vulnerabilities, and the third highlights action-oriented materials including prioritizing actions and implementation.