Resilient Cape Cod project overview

In early 2016, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a three-year, $780,000 grant to the Cape Cod Commission and partners to develop a tool and public outreach program to investigate the environmental and socio-economic effects of local and regional coastal resiliency strategies.

Resilient Cape Cod Grant Partners
Resilient Cape Cod Supporting Agencies

The grant is funded through NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grant program, which supports regional-scale projects that enhance the resilience of coastal communities and economies to the effects of extreme weather, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions.

Resilient Cape Cod Committees

stakeholder engagement

The Stakeholder Working Groups were made up of volunteers, representing a broad range of constituencies and their interests and concerns with regards to subregions. Subregions were organized by water body. Representatives live or work within the applicable subregional areas and could represent the constituent groups and interests within their area.

Overall, 118 attendees from the four subregions participated in 17 meetings across Cape Cod.

Following the initial round of stakeholder, meetings, Commission staff and their partners engaged a subset of stakeholders focused directly on decision support tool development. This group of stakeholders reviewed and vetted the toll functionality and user interface, and provided feedback that helped refine scenario development, planning time horizon, and adaptation strategies in the tool.


The United States Geological Survey (USGS) created a Coastal Change Hazards Portal that provides online access to coastal hazard information and products that can assist those working to protect resources, identify risk, and help prevent economic losses. Examples of information in the portal include assessments of potential storm-induced and sea-level rise coastal change vulnerabilities, long- and short-term rates of shoreline change, and probabilities of erosion during storm events and due to the effects of long-term sea-level rise.

Resilient Cape Cod partners presented information on the following coastal threats in Meeting 1 of the stakeholder engagement process:

Threat: Sea Level Rise

Sea Level Rise (SLR) poses a major threat to Cape Cod, which has 586 miles of vulnerable, tidal shoreline. The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) provides a range of predictions for estimated SLR for the Boston area.

Source: MA CZM (2013) Sea Level Rise: Understanding and Applying Trends and Future Scenarios for Analysis and Planning

In addition to projected flooding above-ground, SLR also impacts Cape Cod's groundwater. The Association to Preserve Cape Cod produced a video on how groundwater will be affected in the region.

The required four-foot vertical separation from groundwater may be affected by sea level rise.

Explore the map below to view impacts of SLR on Cape Cod's landscape.

Threat: Erosion

SLR, extreme weather events, and other anthropogenic changes exacerbate erosion, threatening vital infrastructure, settlements, and facilities on Cape Cod.

Seapine Road, North Chatham, following a 2013 Nor'Easter.

Cape Cod Times produced a map of erosion hotspots in the region, describing some areas that have experienced high levels of erosion.

The MA Shoreline Change Project illustrates how the shoreline of Massachusetts has shifted from the mid-1800s to 2009.

Threat: Flooding & Storm Surges

Projected SLR will increase flooding, both elevating the height of storm surges and flood levels, and exacerbating inundation and storm surge by sending floodwaters further inland.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) produces Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), official community maps that delineate special hazard areas and risk premium zones in the area.

FEMA Flood Map for the Town of Barnstable, The pin shows the Cape Cod Commission's office.
FEMA Firm Zone Designations

Vulnerability Case Studies

Stakeholders were encouraged to share their personal experiences with climate change resiliency and vulnerability through participation in an ESRI StoryMap.

Dr Bottero Road, Dennis

Crosby Lane, Brewster

Ryder Street, Provincetown

Stakeholders watched a video produced by Yale E360 to show how coastal residents of Maryland's Dorchester County are adapting to new climate realities.

Residents elevate their homes as sea level rise impacts their community.

Adaptation Strategies

For this project, adaptation strategies are considered any actions that can be taken to protect an area from coastal hazards. Options range from doing nothing to beach nourishment to permanent hard structures.

The Commission, APCC, and other grant partners are compiling data on these options in an Adaptation Strategies Matrix, which can ultimately be linked to the decision support tool.

Adaptation Strategies Fact Sheets

Commission and partner agency staff developed fact sheets detailing individual adaptation strategies that are relevant for Cape Cod, now and in the future.

Valuing the Environment

The Commission worked with Dr. James Opaluch and Dr. Jasmine Hwang from the University of Rhode Island to assess ecosystem service values on Cape Cod, and how they may be impacted by climate change-induced threats and our adaptation to these threats.

The ecosystem service research was integrated into the decision support tool developed through the Resilient Cape Cod project. The goal of this component was to highlight which ecosystem services Cape Cod residents value, and to understand potential impacts to these ecosystem services due to coastal hazards and our adaptation to them.

Without understanding and integrating the 'value' of the environment into policy decisions, short-term benefits will often overshadow long-term ones.

Cape Cod Coastal Planner


The Cape Cod Coastal Planner is an online, GIS-based decision support tool that integrates the adaptation strategies database, socio-economic analyses, and GIS planning layers in one place. Commission staff worked with Timmons Group in Virginia to develop the tool.

The Coastal Planner illustrates Cape Cod-specific strategies and actions, and make financial and value trade-offs explicit when selecting adaptation strategies and policies - including taking no action. Although it shares a lot of data related to coastal management, the tool is not meant to be used for engineering purposes.

Screenshot of the Cape Cod Coastal Planner, showing information from the adaptation strategies matrix that a user can apply to their selected location on the map of Cape Cod.

Vulnerability Ribbon

Modeled after the Beach Vulnerability Index in South Carolina, Commission staff developed a "Vulnerability Ribbon" that illustrates relative levels of vulnerability to flooding, erosion, and sea level rise along the coastline. The factors impacting these levels of vulnerability include: distance of structures from the shoreline, presence of coastal beach, dunes, barrier beaches, and/or salt marshes; long-term coastal erosion rates from USGS and MA CZM; presence of coastal engineering structures; beach nourishment projects; and roads/structures that intersect with either the floodplain, SLOSH zones, or sea level rise scenarios.

The ribbon is visible in the screenshot above; darker shades of red indicate a higher vulnerability to those threats.

The tool is now available to the public at www.capecodcoast.org.

If you are interested in learning more about the tool or training opportunities, please reach out to Cape Cod Commission staff at frontdesk@capecodcommission.org.


Staff from the Commission and WBNERR completed a pilot project with the Town of Barnstable to pilot test the decision support tool with stakeholders in the community. The pilot project was carried out in alignment with the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program for Barnstable.

The objective was to advance the Town's resiliency planning efforts, to improve property owners' understanding of the threats of climate change and SLR, to identify the costs of doing nothing, and to determine the costs/benefits of different adaptation strategies.

For more information on the Resilient Cape Cod project, please visit the Commission's website or email frontdesk@capecodcommission.org. Thank you!

Created By
Jennifer Clinton


Cape Cod Commission