A Tale of Two Cities: How Sea Grant Helped Tybee Island and St. Marys to Save Money While Saving Lives
Low-lying communities in coastal Georgia are experiencing increased vulnerability to flooding events due to higher storm surges, heavy rainfall, antiquated stormwater infrastructure, and continued development within flood-prone areas. These events have resulted in the loss of property, health, safety, disruption of commerce and governmental services, and huge public expenditures and impairment of the tax base. The Cities of Tybee Island and St. Marys, recognized as major economic drivers of coastal tourism in Georgia, are particularly vulnerable to flooding. To address the impacts of coastal hazards, help communities in sustainable coastal development, and build a cohesive network of coastal leaders, Georgia Sea Grant collaborated with the Tybee Island to develop an award-winning Sea-Level Adaptation Plan. Extension professionals partnered with researchers to canvass a variety of stakeholders, generate cost-benefit analysis, model the impacts of king tides, and facilitate public information meetings. Participatory research, driven by stakeholder engagement, resulted in tangible savings. As a result of Sea Grant’s efforts, Tybee Island achieved CRS (Community Rating System) rating of 5, enabling savings of $725,639 annually in flood insurance premiums for property owners on the island. Inspired by the success of Tybee Island Sea-Level Rise Initiative, St. Marys collaborated with Georgia Sea Grant to implement a new Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, and entered the CRS at a level of 7, resulting in citywide savings of $87,740 annually in flood insurance premiums. To date, Georgia Sea Grant has helped 16 coastal counties and cities in Georgia to become active participants in the CRS.