Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Identifying Stakeholders

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Identifying Stakeholders

Who decides how to prepare for sea level rise?

During the adaptation planning process, organizers are encouraged to assemble a steering community of community stakeholders. Stakeholders are individuals or groups who have something of value that may be affected by coastal hazards or by the actions taken to manage coastal hazards.

This is a very important step to ensure the success of the adaptation planning process, which as we saw in the vignette about Toms River may be a contentious process if there are widely differing viewpoints among the stakeholders. Everyone living and working in a coastal community, as well as many organizations, local, state, and federal government entities, corporations, and other businesses operating in the community, have an interest in preparing for sea level rise.

It is important that there is a diverse representation on the stakeholder steering committee. Failure to respect the democratic process, by excluding stakeholders from the decision-making process can lead to negative consequences and distrust of government, among other things. Encouraging broad participation can result in better decisions in the long run. A diverse set of stakeholders can bring valuable wisdom beyond that held by specialists only and provide essential information to the decision-making process.

Coast with highrise buildings along beach (left);  kids on debris littered beach (right).
Stakeholders in coastal mega-cities such as Mumbai are often quite diverse, ranging from the owners of high-rise buildings to low-income children.
Credit: Left: By Arun Viswam (Own work) View of Marine Drive, Mumbai from Air India Building via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0; Right: By Ravi Khemka Plastic Beach via Flickr CC BY-2.0

Identifying stakeholders

Identifying which types of stakeholders should be included in sea level rise planning activities can be challenging. One approach is to begin by brainstorming a list of all persons or organizations in a community that may be affected either by sea level rise or by sea level rise policy. These people or organizations will usually live, work, or have some other significant presence in the community. However, it is sometimes advisable to include stakeholders from outside the community, such as representatives from the state or federal government. For example, if endangered sea turtles are known to nest along a U.S. community’s shore, then it may be helpful to include representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a stakeholder in the planning process – particularly if protection strategies under discussion include sea walls or other strategies known to be harmful to the turtles.

Sea turtle nest on beach, marked by orange posts and tape.
Sea turtles nest on a beach near a resort in Boca Raton, Florida. Sea walls and other hardened structures (such as the deck and railing shown here) can block turtles' access to the dunes where they prefer to nest. If sea levels rise and such structures remain in place, beaches will shrink, leaving little room for the turtles' nests. In turtle nesting areas, this tension between protecting coastal property and preserving habitat for turtles has led to conflicts between stakeholders and may require including representatives from state and federal environmental agencies in the decision-making process.
Credit: Wikipedia: Boca Turtle Nests 1 Photo by/Author Infrogmation (talk) of New Orleans. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Learning Check Point

Florida Stakeholders

Required Reading

Take a few minutes to read, Up Against the Seawall, a news article about Florida stakeholders’ legal battles over beach erosion, sea wall construction, and sea turtle habitat.


Think about what you just learned then answer the questions below. This exercise is not for credit, but you are required to understand this material for this module.