• Project
  • Northeast
  • Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis
  • Rural

Exploring the Fiscal Implications of Sea Level Rise on Plum Island

The Challenge

Plum Island is a barrier beach off the northeast coast of Massachusetts that is experiencing both erosion and flooding on a regular basis as a result of climate change. The island is also heavily developed with approximately 1,185 homes, including seasonal/second homes and year-round residences.

Increasingly frequent impacts from climate change and sea level rise have already destroyed homes, damaged critical infrastructure, and cut off the island from the mainland for extended periods of time. As the public and private costs of maintaining the current levels of services to Plum Island continue to increase, the two communities the island spans sought to develop the economic and fiscal information needed to evaluate long-term management options for the island.

The Solution

The communities enlisted a team of experts to address this question and Camoin Associates staff served as principal economists and analysts for the project. The Camoin team used future coastal flood projections to analyze the future fiscal and economic impacts on the two communities, considering three hypothetical future outcomes resulting from a spectrum of different management approaches including no policy or infrastructure intervention, maintaining access to the Island, and maintaining access while undertaking significant infrastructure projects to protect the island.

The Impact

The results of the analysis showed the benefit of maintaining access to Plum Island and the limited viability of major infrastructure investments. Regardless of what actions are taken, sea level rise will ultimately render the island inhabitable. However, the study identified a logical approach to managing the island until that happens.