N.H. Report Recommends More Planning Against Coastal Hazards

March 21, 2016

A report says New Hampshire’s coastal communities’ exposure to future flood risks is significant, and now’s the time to plan to minimize that.

The New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission spent 2 1/2 years looking at areas vulnerable to extreme precipitation, projected storm surge and rising sea levels.

The report released on March 18 says the communities avoided the extreme impacts of Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy, but they have experienced other events, like a nor’easter in February 2013 and the October snowstorm of 2011.

“These types of storms will have even greater impacts as sea levels continue to rise, and floods will continue to worsen as extreme rain events intensify,” the report said.

Based on available data, sea levels in New Hampshire have been rising by an average of 0.7 inches per decade since 1900. The rate of sea-level rise has increased to about 1.3 inches per decade since 1993. Using 1992 levels as a baseline, New Hampshire sea levels are expected to rise between 0.6 and 2 feet by 2050 and between 1.6 and 6.6 feet by 2100, the report said.

The data show that as of last year, the state’s 17 coastal communities were home to about 12 percent of the state population and host over 100,000 jobs. The report says the region is growing at nearly three times the rate of the state as a whole.

The commission established goals in the areas of science, assessment, implementation and legislation. For example, it recommends the Legislature authorize a state agency to convene a science and technical advisory panel to review and evaluate the current state of climate change science. It said the vulnerability of buildings, cultural, natural and historic resources should be assessed, with state agencies and communities developing long-term strategies to protect them.

The recommendations are primarily directed to the 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 report emphasizes that early and consistent collaboration between state and local governments can result in solutions which in turn increase our preparedness and resiliency,” said Democratic State Sen. David Watters, one of the 36 members of the commission.

The report also brings attention to the efforts of individual communities, such as the town of Newmarket, which updated its “vision statement” in becoming more resilient against flooding through local land use policies and regulations.

Public comments are being accepted on the report through June 30. Public meetings on the report have been scheduled for May 26 in Greenland and June 1 in Rye.

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