A Participatory Approach to Preparing for Sea Level Rise in Beaufort County, South Carolina

Beaufort County, South Carolina, is a low-lying coastal county with a high sensitivity to tidal flooding and storm surge. Just over half of the County is open water, sounds, marshes, and estuaries and two thirds of its dry land is located within a special flood hazard area. Given these conditions, community leaders included sea level rise in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan. The Plan calls for the County government to anticipate and plan for sea level rise impacts. In response, the Planning Department joined with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and others to identify local actions that could directly or indirectly reduce community vulnerability to sea level rise. The project team used the decision support methodology called the Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) process and supplemented the process with larger public workshops in the community. The participatory approach helped integrate local and scientific knowledge about local vulnerability and produced locally tailored adaptation actions. Working closely with the local stakeholders, the project team drafted a report and executive summary on the 23 adaptation actions Beaufort County can take to increase its resilience to sea level rise.

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