Mississippi Supreme Court finds that artificial beach is public trust property

Harris v. State, 2018 WL 5839607 (Miss. Nov. 8, 2018).

Abutting landowners brought an action against the State of Mississippi, a city, and a county to confirm title to waterfront properties. A trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the landowners on the issue of tideland boundaries, confirmed the landowners’ title, and ruled that the government parties failed to prove adverse possession or public prescriptive easement. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Following a trial, the lower court held that Mississippi held title to the sand beach in front of landowners’ properties as public-trust tidelands and granted easements to the county and city. The landowners appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that the beach was public-trust tidelands; the trial court acted within its discretion in relying on lay witness testimony that the beach was man-made; the expert report did not establish that beach was natural rather than man-made; and the pumping of sand along the shoreline did not constitute an uncompensated taking.

(Thanks for Mississippi Sea Grant National Law Center)

Hurricane Florence and Climate Change

The human influence on Hurricane Florence – a real time forecast based on climate change information

For Hurricane Florence, we present the first advance forecasted attribution statements about the human influence on a tropical cyclone. We find that rainfall will be significantly increased by over 50% in the heaviest precipitating parts of the storm. This increase is substantially larger than expected from thermodynamic considerations alone. We further find that the storm will remain at a high category on the Saffir­Simpson scale for a longer duration and that the storm is approximately 80 km in diameter larger at landfall because of the human interference in the climate system.


Court Requires More Detailed NEPA Inquiry for Federal CAFO Loan

Food & Water Watch v. United States Dep’t of Agric., No. CV 17-1714 (BAH), 2018 WL 4283568 (D.D.C. Sept. 7, 2018)

From the opinion:

The plaintiff, Food & Water Watch (“FWW”), has filed a nine-count complaint against three defendants, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), the Farm Service Agency (“FSA”), and Deanna Dunning, in her official capacity as an FSA Farm Loan Officer (collectively, “defendants”), under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 551, et seq., and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321–70, seeking an order and judgment setting aside an environmental assessment completed by the defendants in connection with a nonparty farm’s “application for a guaranteed loan to construct and operate a poultry concentrated animal feeding operation,” “[d]eclaring that Defendants violated NEPA by failing” to complete an adequate environmental impact statement in connection with the loan application, and “[e]njoining implementation of Defendants’ loan guarantee.” Compl. ¶¶ 1, 5, ECF No. 1. The defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), contending that the plaintiff’s claims are moot and that the plaintiff lacks standing, see generally Defs.’ Mot. J. Pleadings (“Defs.’ Mot.”), ECF No. 17, while the plaintiff has moved to compel the complete Administrative Record (“AR”), see generally Pl.’s Mot. Compel AR (“Pl.’s Mot. Compel”), ECF No. 18.1 For the reasons described below, the plaintiff’s claims are not moot and the plaintiff has standing to pursue this lawsuit. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion is denied while the plaintiff’s motion is granted.2

Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition

Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition (2018)

From the Report WWW page:

The Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition concludes that sea level rise risks to coastal military installations will present serious risks to military readiness, operations and strategy, and includes new information regarding military installation vulnerabilities, including to the energy and transportation infrastructure that these installations depend on.

Stafford Act – Keystone of Federal Disaster Response

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (as amended August 2016)Download

The Stafford Act includes a limitation of liability provision which provides, in relevant part that: 

The Federal Government shall not be liable for any claim based upon the exercise or performance of or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a Federal agency or an employee of the Federal Government in carrying out the provisions of this chapter. 42 U.S.C § 5148.

Stafford Act immunity for Katrina debris removal decisions by FEMA – St. Tammany Parish v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, 556 F.3d 307 (5th Cir. 2009)

Order Denying FEMA Extension – SANTOS v FEMA, No. CV 18-40111-TSH, 2018 WL 4168993 (D. Mass. Aug. 30, 2018)

CRS, Federal Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries (2018)

The Geology and Hydrology of the Mississippi Delta

Master WWW page

Ellet, Charles. Report on the overflows of the delta of the Mississippi. AB Hamilton, 1852.

Humphreys, A. A., & Abbot, H. L. (1861). Report upon the physics and hydraulics of the Mississippi river: Upon the protection of the alluvial region against overflow; and upon the deepening of the mouths … Submitted to the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, War Department, 1861. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.

Fisk, H.N., 1944, Geological investigation of the alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River: U.S. Department of the Army, Mississippi River Commission, 78p.

Fisk, Harold Norman. Geological investigation of the Atchafalaya Basin and the problem of Mississippi River diversion. Waterways Experiment Station, 1952.

Roger T Saucier, Recent geomorphic history of the Pontchartrain Basin, Louisiana, (1962).

James M Coleman & Lynn D Wright, Analysis of Major River Systems and Their Deltas: Procedures and Rationale, with Two Examples., (1971).

Moore, Norman R. Improvement of the lower Mississippi River and tributaries, 1931-1972. Vicksburg, Miss.: Mississippi River Commission, 1972.

Kazmann, Raphael Gabriel, and David B Johnson. “If the Old River Control Structure Fails?” (1980).

Saucier, R. T., 1994, Geomorphology and Quaternary Geologic History of the Lower Mississippi Valley: U. S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Map – Quaternary Geology of The Lower Mississippi Valley, Louisiana Geological Survey, 1989.

Louis D Britsch & E Burton Kemp III, Land loss rates: Mississippi River Deltaic Plain (1990).

Joseph B Dunbar, Louis D Britsch & EB Kemp III, Land Loss Rates. Report 2. Louisiana Chenier Plain (1990).

Joseph B Dunbar, LD Britsch & E Burton Kemp, Land loss rates. Report 3. Louisiana Coastal Plain (1992).

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment – Executive Summary (2018)

WWW site – http://www.climateassessment.ca.gov/

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment – Statewide Summary (2018)

The Statewide Summary Report presents an overview of the main findings from California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, to translate the state of climate science into useful information for action. This report presents findings in the context of existing climate science, including strategies to adapt to climate impacts and key research gaps needed to spur additional progress on safeguarding California from climate change.

California’s Changing Climate 2018: A Summary of Key Findings from California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment provides information to build resilience to climate impacts, including temperature, wildfire, water, sea level rise, and governance. Here you can view a snapshot of the key findings of the Fourth Assessment. For additional information, please download the Key Findings brochure.


Over the course of this and the next century, the combination of rising sea levels, severe storms, and coastal erosion will threaten the sustainability of coastal communities, development, and ecosystems as we currently know them. To clearly identify coastal vulnerabilities and develop appropriate adaptation strategies for projected increased levels of coastal flooding and erosion, coastal managers need user-friendly planning tools based on the best available climate and coastal science. In anticipation of these climate change impacts, many communities are in the early stages of climate change adaptation planning but lack the scientific information and tools to adequately address the potential impacts. In collaboration with leading scientists worldwide, the USGS designed the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) to assess the coastal impacts of climate change for the California coast, including the combination of sea level rise, storms, and coastal change. In this project, we directly address the needs of coastal resource managers in Southern California by integrating a vast range of global climate change projections and translate that information using sophisticated physical process models into planning-scale physical, ecological, and economic exposure, shoreline change, and impact assessments, all delivered in two simple, user-friendly, online tools. Our results show that by the end of the 21st century, over 250,000 residents and nearly $40 billion in building value across Southern California could be exposed to coastal flooding from storms, sea level rise, and coastal change. Results for the other major population center in California (the greater San Francisco Bay Area) are also available but not explicitly discussed in this report. Together, CoSMoS has now assessed the exposure of 95% of the 26 million coastal residents of the State (17 million in Southern California).


Hurricane Harvey: Texas at Risk Page

Hurricane Harvey: Texas at Risk, Texas General Land Office (2018)

Recommendation #4

The state legislature should establish by state statute a Regional Building Code District (RBCD) with standard-setting authority in the high-risk hurricane region of Southeast Texas which would replace the existing weak and uneven building code system. The Commission would have oversight over building codes in the RBCD which will be composed of the following ten Councils of Government or regional planning areas: Lower Rio Grande Valley, Coastal Bend, Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, Houston-Galveston Area, Central Texas, Alamo Area, Brazos Valley, Capital Area, Deep East Texas, and South East Texas. These are the areas historically most at risk of hurricane flooding and wind damage.

Recommendation #5

The state should fund at least 75% of the salary costs of building code enforcement (local inspectors and third-party contractors working for cities and counties) with 25% funded by building permit fees in this new Regional Building Code District. The same capacity strengthening salary program should be extended by the State of Texas for city and county recovery managers.