- Causes of Future Sea Level Rise
- Elevation Maps
- Will we really lose all that land?
- Sea Level Rise Planning Maps
If the sea continues to rise, the shore retreats, and the rolling easement works as intended, eventually the entire parcel will be seaward of the rolling design boundary. In some cases, the rolling boundary will also be the boundary between the private dry land and the public trust tidelands. In other cases, the rolling boundary (e.g. spring high water or the dune vegetation line) will be inland of the public trust boundary. But eventually the public trust boundary (typically mean high water) will migrate inland of the entire parcel, and the land will no longer be privately owned.
If the rolling easement does not require removal, the home might continue to stand on publicly owned wetlands. The owner will have no property right to keep the building there, and the state can require its removal. If the state does not do so, then either the former landowner or the land trust will own the home, depending on the type of rolling easement. If the land trust owns the house, it will be free to remove the structure. The situation in which people continue to inhabit homes standing in the water in areas preserved by rolling easements seems unlikely to become widespread.
Once the land becomes submerged and the buildings have been removed, the mission of the rolling easement will be accomplished in most cases. If the rolling easement is a possibility of reverter, the land will revert to the land trust or local government, which can manage it for conservation until it is transferred to the public trust. If state regulations or rolling easement zoning prevent shore protection, the government agency can then turn its attention to the next parcel inland, which may still be inhabited. Once the land reverts to the public trust, shoreline migration easements will be extinguished along with the owner's title to the land. In those relatively few cases where submerged lands have been conveyed to private parties, where the land does not necessarily revert to the public trust, the rolling easement will remain in force. At this point, it may have little practical significance aside from preventing the wetlands or shallow waters from being filled (which is generally discouraged by federal or state regulations anyway).
This is not to say that the parcel will remain under water forever. Migrating barrier islands, changing inlets, switching river deltas, earthquakes, or storms might create land once again at this location. But with few exceptions, title to any new land here would either go to the state (if the land was created by avulsion) or the owner of another parcel of land that gradually extended here through accretion.
rising sea finally reverses and begins to drop, the law may have to evolve to
better allocate rights along a generally advancing shore, just as rolling
easements are designed for a generally retreating shore. We do not address that
possibility here. The mirror image of the rolling easement may confront
communities along the Great Lakes or other shorelines along falling lakes, long before it becomes an
issue for the shores along tidal waters.
 Under a shoreline migration easement, the landowner would be likely to own the building; with a future interest, the land trust would own it.
 See, e.g. , James R. Angel & Kenneth E. Kunkel, The Response of Great Lakes Water Levels to Future Climate Scenarios with an Emphasis on Lake Michigan-Huron, 36 Journal of Great Lakes Research 5158 (2010) (75 percent of all simulations showing drop in lake levels through the year 2080, with 25 percent chance that the drop could be 5070 centimeters).
This page contains a section from: James G. Titus, Rolling Easements, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA‑430‑R‑11‑001 (2011). The report was originally published by EPA's Climate Ready Estuary Program in June 2011. The full report (PDF, 176 pp., 7 MB) is also available from the EPA web site.
For additional reports focused on the implications of rising sea level, go to Sea Level Rise Reports.