Strategies for Making Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Tools 'Takings-Proof'

40 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2013 Last revised: 24 Sep 2015

See all articles by Michael Allan Wolf

Michael Allan Wolf

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: April 26, 2013


While the costs of some Sea-Level Rise (SLR) adaptation tools are undeniably daunting, the American legal system poses an additional, potentially budget-busting impediment — the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Officials at all governmental strata and from all three branches should keep the demands made by the Takings Clause, as interpreted by the judiciary, in mind as they choose tools from the diverse SLR-adaptation toolbox, as they justify their choices to the electorate and other constituencies, as they put those tools to use, and as they defend that use from litigants claiming abuse. This article sets out to achieve four tasks: First, the article locates the heart of the Takings Clause in a single sentence from a 1960 decision — Armstrong v. United States. Second, the article reviews six taking varieties, ranging from the most concrete common — the affirmative exercise of eminent domain — to the most fanciful — judicial takings. Each variety in turn is matched with one representative Supreme Court decision and with operative language drawn from that opinion. Third, with Armstrong as a guiding principle, the article identifies which of the most common SLR tools already being deployed pose “no,” “minimal,” “moderate,” and “serious” takings implications. Fourth, the article suggests methods that government officials can use to address the challenge posed by tools with the highest takings risk.

Keywords: Sea-level rise, SLR, environment, climate change, regulatory takings, eminent domain

JEL Classification: K11, K32

Suggested Citation

Wolf, Michael Allan, Strategies for Making Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Tools 'Takings-Proof' (April 26, 2013). 28 Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law 157, Vol. 28, No. 2, Spring 2013, Available at SSRN:

Michael Allan Wolf (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States
352-273-0934 (Phone)


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