April Feature: Newly Released Coastal Risks & Hazards Commission Report

Newly Released Coastal Risks & Hazards Commission Report

King Tide Photo Contest winning photo by Ron Sher from Seabrook, NH

King Tide Photo Contest winning photo by Ron Sher from Seabrook, NH

South End in Portsmouth from King Tide Day, 2015.

South End in Portsmouth from King Tide Day, 2015.

After two and a half years of study, the New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission released its draft report for public comment today at a special meeting with coastal area lawmakers at Brown’s Lobster Pound. The draft report, Preparing New Hampshire for Projected Storm Surge, Sea-Level Rise, and Extreme Precipitation, summarizes New Hampshire’s vulnerabilities to projected coastal flood hazards and puts forth recommendations to minimize risk and improve resilience.

The New Hampshire Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission was established by legislation sponsored by New Hampshire senators David Watters (Dover), Nancy Stiles (Hampton) and Martha Fuller Clark (Portsmouth) in 2013 to “recommend legislation, rules, and other actions to prepare for projected sea-level rise and other coastal and coastal watershed hazards… and the risks such hazards pose to municipalities and state assets in New Hampshire.” The law also requires the Commission to consider key scientific research on coastal and future coastal risk and hazards. Representatives from New Hampshire’s 17 Atlantic Coast and Great Bay municipalities, state legislature, state agencies, regional planning commissions, academia, and private sector comprise the 36-member Commission, which is chaired by Cliff Sinnott, Executive Director of the Rockingham Planning Commission.

Preparing New Hampshire for Projected Storm Surge, Sea-Level Rise, and Extreme Precipitation is the Commission’s response to the 2013 authorizing legislation. It reviews the scientific conclusions about future flood risk in coastal New Hampshire, identifies key areas of vulnerability, and makes recommendations to improve coastal resilience and reduce risk.

“The Commission’s report summarizes vulnerabilities to projected coastal flood hazards and how these hazards could impact our seacoast economy, roads and buildings, and natural and historic resources,” explained Cliff Sinnott. “We intend this report and the recommendations to serve as a starting point for state and local decision makers to begin addressing increasing coastal hazards.”

According to the Commission’s Science and Technical Advisory Panel, New Hampshire sea levels are expected to rise between 0.6 and 2.0 feet by 2050 and between 1.6 to 6.6 feet by 2100. Today’s extreme storm surge events will have a significantly greater inundation extent and occur more frequently over time. And annual precipitation is expected to increase by as much as 20 percent by the end of the 21st century compared to the late 20th century, while extreme precipitation events are projected to increase in frequency and in the amount of precipitation produced.

The Commission advises that New Hampshire should not wait to respond to these threatening impacts. In fact, the key to managing economic, environmental, and social impacts is to begin early and adapt incrementally.

King Tide 2014 Winner Joel Ballestero, Hampton

King Tide 2014 Winner Joel Ballestero, Hampton

“The Seacoast region is home to more than 25 percent of New Hampshire’s workforce”, explained Senator Nancy Stiles of Hampton. “The state has a responsibility to ensure people and property are protected in the face of the trends of increased storm surge and flooding, and this report will help the state meet its responsibilities. I am pleased with the pragmatic, common sense principles that guided the Commission recommendations.”

The Commission’s recommendations focus on refining science-based understanding of coastal flood risks, completing detailed assessments of our vulnerabilities, and implementing actions that protect and adapt our built structures and facilities, our economy, our natural resources, and our heritage. The recommendations are primarily directed to the State Legislature, state agencies, and municipalities, but successful implementation of the recommendations will require collaboration between the public and private sectors and among many stakeholder groups.

“The state and municipalities each have responsibilities for roads, public buildings, sewer and water and other infrastructure,” said Senator David Watters. “The report emphasizes that early and consistent collaboration between state and local governments can result in solutions which in turn increase our preparedness and resiliency.”
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
The Commission’s full draft report, Preparing New Hampshire for Projected Storm Surge, Sea-Level Rise, and Extreme Precipitation,is now available for public review and comment on the Commission’s website at: http://nhcrhc.stormsmart.org/draft-for-comment/.

Copies of the report are also available for review at public libraries and town and city halls located in the following coastal zone municipalities: Dover, Durham, Exeter, Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Madbury, New Castle, Newfields, Newington, Newmarket, North Hampton, Portsmouth, Rollinsford, Rye, Seabrook, and Stratham.

The Public Comment Period will end at 4:00 p.m. EST on June 30, 2016. Written comments can be emailed to crhc-comments@rpc-nh.org or mailed to:
Attn: Julie LaBranche
Rockingham Planning Commission
156 Water Street, Exeter, NH 03833

The public is also invited to attend and provide input on the Draft Report and Recommendations at Public Meetings scheduled on the following dates:
Thursday, May 26, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center
89 Depot Road, Greenland, NH 03840

Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
Sugden House at the Seacoast Science Center
570 Ocean Blvd., Rye, NH 03870

For additional information about the Commission, please visit the Commission’s website at: http://nhcrhc.stormsmart.org/, or contact Cliff Sinnott, Commission Chair, at (603) 778-0885.

Peoples' Choice & 2nd Place Winner of 2014 King Tide Contest by Maren Bhagat

Peoples’ Choice & 2nd Place Winner of 2014 King Tide Contest from Hampton, NH by Maren Bhagat.

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.

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