Coastal Communities

Wisconsin  Sea Grant applies technical expertise and geographic information systems to provide advice on issues related to coastal hazards and watershed planning along Wisconsin's Great Lakes shorelines.

Green Infrastructure

New Publication Helps Communities Evaluate Local Codes to Facilitate Green Infrastructure
Think differently about managing stormwater runoff. Existing municipal codes may restrict or even prohibit green infrastructure. Successful green infrastructure projects require community support. If you'd like to encourage green infrastructure in your area, you'll need to evaluate local priorities, values and goals as well as specific codes and ordinances. This new publication can help you with all of these needs. Read more...

Community Economics

The Economic Impacts of Restoring Wisconsin's Sheboygan River
An economic impact study was developed to assess activity related to restoration and remediation of the Sheboygan River. This study, initiated by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was intended to develop baseline data for 2013 with similar studies planned in 2015 and 2017. Read more...

Great Lakes Coastal Storms Program

Great Lakes Coastal Storms Program
The Great Lakes Coastal Storms Program is a regional effort led by the National and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to make Great Lakes communities safer and more resilient to coastal hazards. Read more...

Guiding Principle on Coastal Outreach

Role of Wisconsin Sea Grant in Coastal Areas
What is the guiding principle of Wisconsin Sea Grant work in coastal communities? That answer lies in a situational analysis. Read more...

Community Planning

Great Lakes Coastal Community Planning Resource
The Great Lakes Coastal Community Planning Resource provides a toolkit to support comprehensive planning and sustainable development along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior coasts of Wisconsin. Read more...

Coastal Community Planning and Development Reading List
This list covers classic planning literature and general planning texts, smart growth and new urbanism, environmental planning, waterfront and coastal planning and Great Lakes issues. Read more...

Coastal Heritage Tourism

Wisconsin Coastal Guide
This interactive site details cultural and natural attractions along Wisconsin's Great Lakes coasts. Read more...

Coastal Beaches

Wisconsin Coastal Beaches Workgroup
Coastal beaches provide substantial economic, social, and quality-of-life benefits. The Coastal Beaches Workgroup serves the 
professionals, researchers, and funders involved in the management and improvement of Wisconsin's 200+ Great Lakes beaches.


Coastal Hazards

Social Science and Severe Weather
Social science can be used to understand and improve risk communication. In the event of a severe thunderstorm or tornado, weather forecasters need to get accurate information out quickly to the public.  

Visualizing Coastal Processes
Animation, aerial photography, pictures, charts and text presented here go a long way toward explaining the technical reasons behind coastal processes. Read more...


Measuring Bluff Erosion
New technical approaches help people understand how and why bluffs erode and slide away, threatening property and endangering lives. The work is supported by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute. Read more...

Confronting Coastal Erosion and Flooding
Adam Bechle is learning to help coastal residents in Wisconsin confront coastal erosion and flooding. Bechle is the is the new J. Keillor Wisconsin Coastal Management and Wisconsin Sea Grant Fellow. Read more...

Revitalizing Local Waterfront Economies
This video outlines the Great Lakes Legacy Act and highlights benefits it brings to communities. Read more...

Dr. David Hart: Specialist in Geographic Information Systems
Dr. David Hart tells us about his job at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, including his efforts with the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas. Read more...

Wisconsin Coastal Guide
See what there is to see along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shores. Read more...

Beyond the Usual Suspects
E. coli bacteria sometimes contaminates the waters of Bradford Beach in Milwaukee. Where does it come from? How can it be reduced? Dr. Sandra MacLellan cracks the case. Read more...

Increasing Safety at Sea Caves
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has become a world-class destination for sea kayaking, but some of the most popular attractions can also be treacherous. Under certain conditions, the sea caves can quickly change from awe-inspiring to terrifying. A new Sea Grant system improves safety. Read more...


Development of Geo-Indicators for Assessment of Coastal Bluff Ecosystem in Lake Michigan for Regional Integrated Bluff Management (IBM)

Chin Wu, UW-Madison, (608) 263-3078,

Coastal bluffs along the Great Lakes are a sensitive landscape feature, often containing both vital shoreline habitat at the bluff toe and urbanized development at the crest. Sediments in the coastal bluff environment (CBE) play an important role in ecosystem function. Movements of sediment are constantly altered by natural climate factors and anthropogenic coastal development, making a sediment budget accounting for sources, sinks and pathways of sediment transport critical. In this project we will develop three sets of geo-indicators to parameterize the CBE, quantify coastal processes on a regional sediment budget and characterize the health or function services of the CBE. The resilience of geo-indicators in response to stressors like coastal development and climate change would be examined on three sites of varying urbanization along the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan. The geo-indicators would help coastal managers effectively assess the health of the coastal bluff ecosystem for regional integrated bluff management (IBM) along Lake Michigan. (R/RCE-02)

Improving Upon Flash Flooding Risk Assessments and Forecasts for Great Lakes Cities

Paul Roebber, UW-Milwaukee, (414) 229-3950,

Great Lakes communities inevitably face heavy rainfall and flash flooding events. Although we have a significant amount of historical and future projections of precipitation data as it relates to flooding throughout the Milwaukee and Chicago regions, we lack an integration of that precipitation-flooding knowledge with critical atmospheric signals, antecedent atmospheric and soil conditions, and land-surface information. This project will develop several operational tools using both types of information that forecasters, emergency management personnel and the broader community can use when either a heavy rainfall event is predicted or as part of long-term planning. The project includes testing and dissemination of the tools. By taking the necessary steps to develop resiliency recommendations and emergency response tools to protect critical infrastructures and dwellings, these major Great Lakes cities will reduce their vulnerability to extreme precipitation, reduce loss to life and property, and increase their overall resilience to climate change. R/RCE-03

Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Adaptation Planning in the Chequamegon Bay Region of Lake Superior

Randy Lehr, Northland College, (715) 682-1261,

Climate change adaptation planning is a critical need in the Chequamegon Bay and Apostle Islands region of Lake Superior. Because of its unique history of land use and infrastructure development, geomorphology and localized precipitation patterns, the Chequamegon Bay area is arguably the most vulnerable region in the Lake Superior basin with respect to climate change. To address these challenges, this project will implement comprehensive, integrated assessment that connects community leaders, staff from local and tribal governments, and local elected officials with scientific and subject matter experts surrounding the issue of climate change adaptation in the region. This work will empower local governments to adapt to climate change impacts and develop a roadmap toward climate change adaptation that integrates unique local planning needs into the context of an interconnected regional system. R/RCE-04

The Hydrologic and Ecologic Effects of Green Infrastructure Within Urban Coastal Catchments

Steve Loheide, UW-Madison, (608) 265-5277,

There is increasing interest in green infrastructure strategies such as rain barrels, porous pavement, native landscaping, rain gardens and green roofs. Yet widespread adoption of these practices has been slow, in part due to lingering uncertainty in site-specific performance and lack of engagement by private homeowners. Realistic expectations of performance for sites with different fine-scaled characteristics under a range of weather scenarios is key to executing successful projects that encourage engagement by homeowners. By performing factorial modeling using ParFlow with Common Land Model, we will be able to explore these details at a larger scale than has been done before. By synthesizing our results into a visualization tool and set of guidelines, we will make these results easily accessible to planners, professionals, private residents and students and help to develop an informed citizenry that understands the impact of individual, distributed stormwater management decisions on broader hydrological and ecological outcomes. R/RCE-05


Advancing Green Infrastructure Through Local Codes and Ordinances in the Great Lakes
Working with 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Sea Grant is supporting efforts to reduce the negative impacts of stormwater through the use of green infrastructure in watersheds draining to the Great Lakes. Outcomes include producing an audit tool and workshops targeted at planners, stormwater engineers and zoning administrators. Funding source NOAA Coastal Storms Program

Great Lakes Coastal Storms Program
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration leads this regional effort in collaboration with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network to make Great Lakes coastal communities safer and more resilient to storm and weather hazards and climate change. Sea Grant and counterparts in Minnesota host program outreach coordinators who play a key role in targeting regional needs. The program currently funds projects in the Great Lakes focused on dangerous currents and waves, reducing stormwater impacts on natural resources, shoreline mapping and management and community resilience. Funding source: NOAA Coastal Storms Program

Coastal Processes Manual, Edition #3
The Wisconsin Sea Grant Coastal Processes Manual was first written in 1987 by the coastal engineering specialist and was extremely successful. This manual quickly became an essential resource for Great Lakes coastal engineering information that was easily understandable to property owners, coastal communities, regulators and regional and statewide coastal resource agencies. A second edition followed in 1998. Since that edition was prepared, there have been significant advances in several of the manual’s topics and information sources as well as several completely new topics such as new Web-based coastal engineering tools and data sources, Federal Emergency Management Agency flood mapping results, climate change issues, coastal construction set-back guidance, and coastal structure and processes interactions understanding. A third edition would address those topics and will involve the collaboration
of governmental and trade industry partners.

Integrated Assessment on Water Level Variability and Coastal Bluffs
A team of investigators representing disciplines including coastal engineering, geology, urban and regional planning, law, policy studies, ecology, landscape architecture and social science led by Sea Grant received a planning grant from the University of Michigan to explore the impact of changing water levels on coastal bluffs in northern Milwaukee County and southern Ozaukee County along Lake Michigan. The team will participate in a full integrated assessment with the desired outcomes of developing a select set of policy alternatives by local governments and adaptive actions by coastal property owners that lead to a measurable increase in the resilience of bluffs to coastal erosion. Funding Source: Graham Sustainability Institute of the University of Michigan.

Geospatial Technologies for Great Lakes Coastal Management
The Wisconsin Coastal Atlas ( helps people better understand coastal issues, share coastal data and inform decision-making about the Great Lakes. The atlas leverages accurate local government data to represent the coasts of Wisconsin and seeks to be a sharable resource for analyzing coastal issues that extend beyond the boundaries of the state. Ongoing activities include adding new interactive maps, decision tools and GIS data sets and updating technologies to improve data discovery and sharing.

Promote Coastal Heritage Tourism
Sea Grant collaborates with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program on coastal heritage tourism activities, including enhancement and maintenance of the Wisconsin Coastal Guide, an interactive map that promotes exploration of the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior Circle Tours.

Resilience to Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation for Wisconsin’s Coastal Communities
Sea Grant staff works with coastal communities to inform planners and decision-makers about the current science on climate adaptation. Hart and Clark serve as co-chairs of the Coastal Resilience Working Group of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Hart collaborates with the NOAA Digital Coast Partnership on the Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Planning Guide,

Climate Change and Green Bay Hypoxia Decision Support Tool
This project, for which Sea Grant provides supportive outreach activities for two partner campuses, is creating a decision-support tool for use within the Lower Fox River watershed to support ecosystem-based management using alternative sediment and phosphorous loading and climate trend scenarios. Funding source: University of Michigan Water Center

Improving Beaches
Sea Grant has taken the lead in a coordinating a Wisconsin coastal beaches workgroup, as well as improving and expanding the use of free Web data services and decision-support tools by working with their developers and users across the Great Lakes. These tools offer beach managers more timely, accurate and cost effective information on water quality, lake conditions and pollution sources.

Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern Outreach
Leading the Area of Concern Citizen Advisory Committee Outreach and Education Subcommittee, Sea Grant is identifying and coordinating outreach and education activities to improve watershed water quality.

Related Publications

State of the Bay 2013
For the most recent information about water quality, fish and wildlife populations, aquatic invasive species, beach conditions and the status of contaminants in Green Bay, Wisconsin, see this free downloadable publication. Read more...

Related Websites

NOAA Land Cover Change Atlas
NOAA provides a visual and detailed map of the U.S. and its coastal counties. It offers data on land cover and land change information on intertidal areas, wetlands and adjacent uplands, updated every five years.

Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth
A new NOAA website provides tools, resources and case studies about how smart-growth strategies can help coastal communities manage development while balancing environmental, economic and quality-of-life issues. Read more...

Wisconsin's Water Library

Wisconsin's Water Library has reading lists on many different topics.  Take a look at the coastal planning and development reading list.