Environmental Law Clinic to Assess Delaware’s Legal Tools for Adapting to Rising Sea Levels
Web Editor - Published: April 22, 2013
Rising sea levels represent one of the potentially devastating impacts of global climate change cited by earthday.org, which has named “The Faces of Global Climate Change” as a theme for the April 22nd Earth Day holiday, and Widener Law’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic recently received a grant from the Delaware Coastal Management Program (DCMP) to asses the legal tools available for sea level rise adaptation in Delaware.

“According to a state estimate, as much as 11% of the land mass of the state of Delaware could be inundated by sea level rise by the year 2100,” says Associate Professor Ken Kristl, who directs the clinic and wrote the successful grant application for the project, which is titled “Assessing the Legal Toolbox for Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Delaware: Options and Challenges for Regulators, Policy Makers, Property Owners, and the Public.”

“From a legal perspective, the submergence of what is currently dry or mostly dry land in Delaware because of gradual sea level rise will create a particularly complicated set of problems arising from a clash of private and public rights and interests,” writes Kristl in the grant proposal before outlining how the project will analyze the potential legal tools available to manage sea level rise adaptation.

Answering to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), “The mission of the Delaware Coastal Programs Section is to preserve, protect, develop and enhance the resources” of Delaware’s coastline through two programs, the DCMP and the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Work on the project began in mid-April and is divided into three phases; Identification of Adaptation Management Legal Tools and Their Legal Issues, Assessment of Current Delaware Law’s Ability to Implement Identified Strategies, and Options for and Challenges to Improving Delaware Law’s Ability to Implement Identified Strategies. Materials generated during each phase and the final report, which is scheduled to for March 2014 will be distrubted to key stakeholders – including the Governor, DNREC officials, state legislators, and local municipal officials – and also be made available to the public through key public libraries throughout the state and on the Widener Environmental Law Center’s website.

In the accompanying video, Professor Kristl discusses the origins of the grant proposal and what he hopes that the project can accomplish.

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