ENVIRONMENT

Coastal Communities Told To Prepare For Extreme Weather

Two public meetings have been held to present draft findings of the New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission. The Commission was charged with studying storm surges, sea-level rise and extreme precipitation. Greenland and Newington are two of the communities in New Hampshire’s coastal zone and one-fourth of the state’s population lives in the 17 cities and towns included in this report.

The 100 plus page report shows a consensus that sea levels have been rising for decades, and eventually salt marches will start to disappear. While the entire issue of climate change was clearly beyond the scope of this report, it did provide recommendations based upon the best available science in order to protect coastal property and infrastructure.

The entire report can be viewed at the Commission’s website: http://nhcrhc.stormsmart.org/draft-for-comment/

I attended the May 26 meeting in Greenland and felt that not only is this report loaded with solid information and documentation, but it also shows us what steps to take so that our coastal communities maintain their natural habitats and property values, and businesses can help insure their future viability. There are dozens of recommendations, but five were of particular interest to me and outlined steps that communities can immediately adopt easily and at no cost.

• Secure new and allocate existing funding sources for state agencies and municipalities to conduct vulnerability assessments of assets at appropriate scales and to implement adaptation strategies.

• Use appropriate and available mechanisms including but not limited to incentives and market-based tools to fund climate adaptation strategies.

• Implement regulatory standards and/or enact enabling legislation to ensure that the best available climate science and flood risk information are used for the siting and design of new, reconstructed, and rehabilitate state-funded structure and facilities, municipal structures and facilities, and private structures.

• Develop plans and implement strategies to prepare and adapt recreational resources based on best available climate science.

• Protect land that allows coastal habitats and populations to adapt to changing conditions and also provides ecosystem services that protect people, structures, and facilities.

The report itself was the result of a Senate bill sponsored by David Watters (D) Dover and Senator Nancy Stiles (R) of Hampton. Public comments are being heard and the final draft will be available later this year.

To protect the habitat, economy and property value of our 17 coastal communities, we need to understand the implications of a rising sea level and this report helps. I will work with our community and legislative leaders to help understand this report and lead in the protection of our New Hampshire resources.