Assessing Coastal Change in Support of the 2023 Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan

Principal Investigator

The Texas coast is a system of barrier islands, lagoons, estuaries, plains, and rivers on a low-lying coastal plain. Embedded in this natural and dynamic system are a variety of human developments and activities including oil and gas production, heavy industry, shipping, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, agriculture, tourism, and small and large communities dotted throughout the landscape. The natural systems of the coastal plain, however, are dynamic and subject to sudden hazards such as floods, storm winds, storm surge, and erosion superimposed on longer term processes of ongoing erosion caused by changes in sediment supply and shifting habitats caused by sea level rise (SLR) and climate change.

Although a community may address their resiliency status today, they still may not effectively account for the shifting base line of coastal change likely to occur during the coming decades. This project will provide actionable information in the form of geohazards and vulnerability maps and geospatial databases that not only show the current critical environments and processes occurring in an area but also how the natural systems have shifted historically and how they are projected to shift in the next 50 to 100 years. Project results will show how the natural and human systems are linked now and future impacts of that linkage. Importantly, the modeling portion of this project will assess how implementing scenarios of conservation, restoration, engineering, and community planning efforts can affect present and future resiliency.

This work is part of the Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan 2023 efforts. Objectives include the following:

  • Using new, high-resolution maps of natural and built environments (incorporating WorldView and Sentinel 2 satellite imagery) HRI is currently developing with earlier TCRMP funding, conduct modeling of sea level rise impacts (SLAMM model), storm surge (ADCIRC model), storm surge enhanced by future sea level rise, and changes in river flood plains, and shorelines. Impacts will be modeled over 50 to 100 years in the future for various SLR and hurricane scenarios.
  • Through combining historic change (currently being updated by HRI with earlier TCRMP funding) and model projections, develop geohazards/vulnerability maps that depict past, present, and future exposure to environmental dynamics. These are maps that show how a community/region fits into the changing environment. The maps give residents, planners, and coastal environmental managers a space plus time visualization of a region or community.
  • Through community and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) participation, assess plans and projects of the TCRMP for their effectiveness in increasing sustainable resiliency through engineering, conservation, restoration, and planning. This project will support this objective through modeling scenarios with resiliency strategies in place and comparing with no-action alternatives.

Expected outcomes of this project are citizens who make informed decisions regarding how they live and prosper within a changing coastal setting. Decision makers and planners will use the information this project provides to the 2023 TCRMP to help them make significant changes in community planning, resource management, and investments in projects that result in a more resilient coast.