Deferred Action

dock with fringe wetlands

Titus (1998, 2000) lists “deferred action” as a management option. In one sense, deferred action is not really a “management option” at all, since it is lack of management and forethought. Deferred action assumes that some kind of reasonable action would take place in the future to maintain wetland functions and values in the face of inundation from sea level rise when the need becomes critical. It is perhaps worth considering as an option, then, because one could compare the political and economic costs of delaying action until the inevitable.

If too many inundatable lands were bulkheaded or otherwise held back from inundation, then the government would be forced to buy back lands or forcibly evict property owners, depending on who pays, and then go to the expense of removing bulkheads and fill to enable the creation of enough wetlands to ensure sufficient fish habitat, for example. The cost of the deferment would depend on how much land had become developed or otherwise bulkheaded in the interim. The political costs would be very high indeed and would involve serious legal challenges in terms of government takings, if the cost were placed on the public rather than individual property owners.

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