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Tales of the Coast
Corps and the Coast

Nonstructural Alternatives

Non-structural alternatives are methods that encourage shore protection by changing the way the shoreline is used. Society has developed ways to adapt to coastal hazards by setting requirements for the elevation of buildings, providing insurance, and planning for continual erosion with setback limits for new construction. The final non-structural alternative is to retreat by relocation.

The Corps, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employ or promote the use of non-structural alternatives.

  • FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Program using Flood Insurance Rate Maps. In effect, these regulations become floodplain zoning laws applicable to individual property owners.
  • NOAA has identified land-use planning and construction siting as the most effective means to reduce coastal storm hazards, particularly on eroding coasts. Through the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, NOAA provides funds to individual states to help solve their coastal hazard problems.

Coastal hazard mitigation is addressed by many agencies at the Federal, state, and local level, as well as by businesses and individuals operating and living at the waterfront. Therefore, non-structural methods and regulations vary significantly and are specific to different coastal areas.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Source: National Park Service

Non-Structural Alternatives

Engineering techniques pertain to the physical interaction of water and land, while management techniques influence peoples' use of the shore. These management techniques are non-structural alternatives.