Kauai’s new proactive law that regulates development in areas prone to sea level rise

Sean Ahearn

Kauai’s Mayor signed a proactive bill into law that amends construction design standards to incorporate expected sea level rise impacts. This makes Kauai one of the first counties in the nation to enact development regulations based on scientific modeling projections.

It’s said that this new ordinance ensures that the inevitable effects of coastal erosion and flooding are determining factors in the future growth and development of our island.

This ordinance will require the lowest floor of all new residential construction, and substantial residential construction improvements, to be elevated two feet above the highest sea level rise flood elevation. It will also require all new non-residential construction, and substantial non-residential improvements, to be elevated at least one foot above the highest sea level rise flood elevation. An updated Sea Level Rise Constraint District in the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance will be implemented to address sea level rise impacts on annual high wave run up and passive flooding that’s projected to occur within this century.

The Kauaʻi County Planning Department, in collaboration with the UH Manoa Climate Resilience Collaborative (formerly known as the Coastal Geology Group) helped draft Bill No. 2879 to incorporate its innovative computer model projections. Their model shows the areas across the Hawaiian Islands where chronic coastal flooding and erosion are expected to occur as sea level rises in the coming decades. 

These projections are reflected in an online atlas called the County of Kaua‘i Sea Level Rise Constraint District Viewer. Elevation design standards outlined in the new ordinance are based on annual high wave run up and passive flooding hazards obtained from the viewer.

Click here to view the State of Hawaii Sea Level Rise Website


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Sean Ahearn & Jim Karlovsky
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(800) 808-6373


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