Sea-level rise presents challenges not only to property owners but also to local governments. Local governments pay the bill for infrastructure such as roads, sewer, water, and electrical and drainage systems that can be compromised through sea-level rise or coastal flooding or erosion as exacerbated by sea-level rise. At the same time, as we have continued to increase the population and investment in hazardous areas, local governments spend increasing funds in their efforts to protect people and property. Where does this cycle end?
Most options that local governments have to improve this situation result in potential local government financial or legal liability through buyouts or increasing regulations and legal challenges. Does this mean a local government always has the duty to spend money to keep property owners safe and satisfied?
The article “Drowning in Place: Local Government Costs and Liabilities for Flooding Due to Sea-Level Rise” examines the possibility that local governments might have the legal option to draw a line in the sand by not paying for upgrades to drainage systems in areas that increasingly flood due to sea-level rise. While this would obviously not be a highly desirable or politically popular option, there may come a point at which a local government, due to fiscal constraints, has few other options unless it is able to reach collaborative political solutions with its constituents.”