Increasing resilience of urban development on Texas barrier islands




Taylor, Eleonor Barraza


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The purpose of the dissertation was to develop information, at a local scale, that can be incorporated into a spatial planning process to increase the resilience of urban development on Mustang and North Padre Islands, Texas. About 12% of U.S. barrier islands are completely urbanized, and 36% are heavily developed. This development trend is exposing more people, property, and infrastructure to coastal hazards. Therefore, coastal communities must plan for resiliency to remain functional and prosperous after a storm strikes or environmental conditions change.

Each chapter presents an element of the spatial planning process, including the following: a geohazards map, an ecosystem services valuation, and a land-use policy analysis. The geohazards map describes the effect of ongoing geologic processes and future evolution of a barrier island as a geomorphic system in response to relative sea-level rise (RSLR). The assessment and monetary valuation of the storm protection provided by beaches and foredunes informs decision-making regarding beach-dune management alternatives and supports their preservation. Land-use policies are analyzed and recommendations made to preserve current and future critical environments and guide future urban growth towards safer and more stable areas.

Results of the study show that RSLR could cause 50% of the study area to change by 2072. About 55% of the assessed beach-foredune areas provide overwash protection against at least a 100-year storm. Beaches and foredunes cover 6.9 sq. km; however, they save an estimated $141.4 million/year (2013 USD) in storm protection expenditures. It was found that 26% of the study area can accommodate higher density development, 23% should be left undeveloped or planned for lower density development, and 51% includes public spaces and preservation areas. Current state and federal regulations offer only limited protection to present and future locations of critical environments, with beaches and dunes receiving the most protection compared to bay-margin wetlands. A transfer of development rights program may be a sensible land-use policy for addressing the realities of a dynamic coastal environment and balancing private and public interests.

While coastal vulnerability continues to increase, this dissertation provides actionable information and a process to follow for increasing the resilience of human activities on barrier islands.


Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


Beaches and dunes, Coastal planning, ecosystem services, Resilience, sea level rise, Storm protection valuation



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