Climate Adaptation (2014-2017)

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Project Type: 
Extension
Project Number: 
A/CA-3

Participants:

Chris Keeley N.H. Sea Grant Communities and Climate Program Assistant
Julia Peterson N.H. Sea Grant Extension Specialist for Water Resources
Situation: 

According to a recent report, climate change is already affecting coastal New Hampshire. Temperatures, overall precipitation (especially in winter) and the frequency of extreme precipitation events are all rising. River discharge is increasing. Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are rising, as is sea level (Wake, 2011). Many of these conditions are hardly news to community leaders in New Hampshire’s coastal watershed as they have been regularly dealing with effects such as flooding and coastal erosion. Community leaders are looking for help in preventing harm from these effects.

New Hampshire’s coastal watershed comprises 42 towns. The relatively small coastline is commercially, historically, recreationally, scientifically and ecologically significant and encompasses both coastal shorelands and two estuaries – Hampton Seabrook Harbor and the nation’s most recessed estuary, Great Bay. The Great Bay Estuary watershed also includes 10 municipalities within the state of Maine, which is connected to New Hampshire by the Piscataqua River. In 2010, about 9.6% of the Piscataqua Region’s watershed was impervious cover. Since 1990, the amount of impervious cover increased by 120% while population grew by 19% (PREP, 2013). Close to half of the region’s coastal communities have greater than 10% of their land covered by impervious surfaces. Increasing precipitation rates in conjunction with increasing rates of impervious cover are compounding the effects of climatic changes.

Communities within the region have experienced pollution impairments in Great Bay, tightening municipal budgets, and a series of severe and damaging storms. Municipal leaders are influenced by many different forces – economic, environmental, social, political and cultural – that often pull decisions in different directions. Fortunately, there is a growing foundation of regionally specific climate change assessment information as well as climate adaptation tools and processes for communities to tap into. N.H. communities have expressed a need for assistance in using these tools to maintain their ability to be attractive places to live, work and play. Communities need N.H. Sea Grant’s ability to provide high degrees of engagement while effectively drawing from multiple disciplines in order to be responsive to each community’s particular needs.

Since about 2010, N.H. Sea Grant has been working with partners to support communities wishing to improve their climate adaptation, and municipal leaders from throughout N.H.’s coastal watershed have become increasingly engaged in climate adaptation through dialogue, educational forums and applied research projects. NHSG has documented increases in comfort and motivation levels amongst community leaders, and reports show that some communities are now in early stages of adaptation preparation and implementation. Community climate adaptation needs are projected to grow dramatically as knowledge, attitudes, policies, regulations and practices evolve.

Goals: 

Coastal communities in New Hampshire are better prepared for current and projected climate conditions and able to reduce risks to life, health, property and infrastructure from severe weather, sea level rise, flooding and other climate effects.

Objectives: 

Representatives from at least 20 communities per year will seek information about climate conditions, climate effects, hazard resiliency, adaptation tools and strategies from N.H. Sea Grant and program partners.

At least two communities per year will incorporate information about current and projected climate trends into planning processes and documents.

At least one community per year will modify regulations, policies and practices to account for current and projected climate trends and promote adaptation strategies as befitting community priorities.

Accomplishments: 

2015

N.H. Sea Grant positions fifth grade students in New Hampshire as future leaders on climate change

N.H. Sea Grant helps fifth grade teachers develop a curriculum to teach fifth graders about local climate change impacts to prepare them as future leaders on climate resilience and to motivate local municipal officials.
Relevance: Current leaders of New Hampshire coastal communities are taking steps to prepare for climate change. Future leaders have been absent from discussions about local climate change impacts and how our communities can prepare.
Response: In 2015, N.H. Sea Grant, with UNH Cooperative Extension and Strafford Regional Planning Commission, partnered with two fifth grade classes at a local consolidated middle school attended by students from three N.H. towns to teach students about climate change and in return position them to inform their parents and municipal leaders about the impacts of climate change.
Results: Fifth grade teachers at the school are developing a climate change curriculum with N.H. Sea Grant's support. N.H. Sea Grant will teach the fifth-graders about local climate change impacts and municipal action in spring 2016 as part of the lesson. Students will then develop their own presentation to give to municipal leaders at a community forum at the local library to inspire further action on climate change.

N.H. Sea Grant information sheet on climate champions spreads awareness

N.H. Sea Grant produced an information sheet in 2015 that condenses the content of a report about supporting climate adaptation "champions" in coastal New England communities in order to provide an easy-to-read synopsis to a wider audience.
Relevance: A report produced by a 2014 N.H. Sea Grant Doyle Fellow provided an in-depth look at the challenges facing "champions" of climate adaptation in coastal communities throughout northern New England. The document is 29 pages long and provides detailed information for organizations and individuals who want to support these champions.
Response: N.H. Sea Grant produced a two-page information sheet in 2015 that condenses the report contents into a more concise format for a quick glance at the report's main points and highlights.
Results: The information sheet was distributed on social media and at various conferences, workshops and public events to help spread awareness of the work and needs of climate champions.

N.H. Sea Grant supports legislative commission in reducing coastal risks and hazards

N.H. Sea Grant helps legislative commission connect with local leaders for input on draft legislation to order to support state agencies in reducing coastal risks and hazards.
Relevance: The N.H. Coastal Risks & Hazards Commission is a legislative body charged with "recommending legislation, rules, and other actions to prepare for projected sea level rise and other coastal and coastal watershed hazards such as storms, increased river flooding, and storm water runoff, and the risks such hazards pose to municipalities and state assets in New Hampshire." In year three of their work, the commission was faced with gathering feedback from the public on their draft recommendations.
Response: In 2015, N.H. Sea Grant and partners helped to plan and facilitate focus groups with the public to respond to the draft recommendations.
Results: N.H. Sea Grant helped design and facilitate forums for 36 participants representing municipal leaders, businesses and concerned residents. N.H. Sea Grant guided participants through the commission's recommendations and asked them to give feedback on strategies for protecting N.H.'s economy, built landscape, natural resources and cultural heritage.

N.H. Sea Grant helps local city take action to adapt to climate change

N.H. Sea Grant helps a coastal community prioritize concerns for climate change adaptation, resulting in an active citizen's group for climate change adaptation.
Relevance: With N.H. Sea Grant assistance, the city of Dover, N.H., began building momentum to prepare for climate change over 2012–2014 during a role-play planning simulation project.
Response: In 2015, the city of Dover and N.H. Sea Grant began working together on next steps to prepare for climate change by engaging more community members to prioritize planning opportunities and develop action items. N.H. Sea Grant staff formed a local steering committee of community leaders and volunteers which helped guide the focus of four workshops.
Results: N.H. Sea Grant and city partners hosted four workshops focused on current and future climate change impacts, green infrastructure, regulations and planning, and prioritizing action items and planning opportunities. The workshops engaged over 40 community members, many coming to multiple workshops. The city now has a citizen's group that meets quarterly to help advance the action items that were identified, including a public art display of historical and future high water marks in the downtown area.

N.H. Sea Grant and partners build knowledge, intention and motivation for climate adaptation

Through a variety of outreach methods, including a popular workshop series, N.H. Sea Grant and partners build knowledge, motivation and intention in community leaders to act to improve community climate preparedness, leading to close to 70% intending to change a plan, policy, regulation or practice.
Relevance: Many community leaders in New Hampshire are aware of and concerned about N.H.'s changing climate, but are not sure what to do about it.
Response: N.H. Sea Grant works with partners in the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW), a coalition of over 20 partners engaged in promoting climate adaptation in N.H.'s coastal watershed. Since 2010, CAW members have secured over $5.4M in grant funding. CAW received a regional planning award in 2012 and an EPA Environmental Merit Award in 2015. N.H. Sea Grant contributes uniquely to CAW in multiple ways, including taking primary responsibility for identifying educational objectives for workshops and post-session questionnaires and designing interactive sessions for workshops and conferences; leading the tracking, documentation and presentation of CAW outcomes; leading selection of the annual climate adaptation community champion award; coordinating the Maine-N.H. climate adaptation professional networks exchange; preparing an electronic newsletter; and participating in targeted projects. During 2015, CAW members delivered four workshops attracting 178 participants from 33 communities across four states, primarily N.H. Workshops covered the N.H. Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission's draft report, navigating shoreland permitting in tidal N.H., protecting cultural resources from climate change and hazards, and restoring natural dunes and protecting people.
Results: After each workshop, questionnaires gather evaluative information and input from participants about their information needs. Typically over 75% of respondents in 2015 reported an increase in knowledge, and even greater percentages reported increases in confidence with the material and motivation to act. About 80% of respondents reported that they will apply something they learned at the workshop and close to 70% intend to change a plan, policy, regulation or practice

N.H. Sea Grant and partners convene annual N.H. Climate Summit and initiate first Climate Adaptation Champion award

N.H. Sea Grant adds value to a regional climate summit by participating on the planning committee and delivering presentations as well as coordinating the nomination, selection and presentation of a local leader for a Coastal Community Climate Adaptation Champion award.
Relevance: New Hampshire's coastal watersheds encompass 42 municipalities, headquarters for several agencies and organizations, the University of New Hampshire and an engaged citizenry. Many coastal community leaders participate in education and outreach on climate adaptation as well as represent their communities in researcher-led projects. The region represents a mini-hub of climate adaptation activities.
Response: For the past five years, N.H. Sea Grant has helped plan and conduct an annual N.H. Climate Summit hosted by the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a frequent project partner. The summit is a forum for information sharing and discussion among scientists, agencies, municipal leaders, watershed organizations and citizens concerned about the impacts of climate change in coastal N.H.
Results: The fourth annual summit was held in June 2015 and was attended by 116 participants. In 2015, N.H. Sea Grant staff initiated the first N.H. Coastal Community Climate Adaptation Champion award, inspired by the work of a 2014 N.H. Sea Grant undergraduate Doyle Fellow who studied climate champions in northern New England – what they are doing, how they are sustained and what they need from professionals who can offer technical assistance and support. The award was presented at the summit and recognizes a community leader who advances climate adaptation at the local level. N.H. Sea Grant staff solicited nominations, coordinated reviews and selection and wrote the presentation announcement. Post summit questionnaires indicate that the vast majority of participants believe the time spent at the event is worthwhile, that they learn about local projects and expect to apply what they learn.

N.H. Sea Grant gathers Maine and N.H. climate adaptation networks to share knowledge, lessons learned and opportunities

N.H. Sea Grant and Maine Sea Grant organized a regional meeting in 2015 to bring coalitions of professionals who support climate adaptation in coastal communities together to learn from each other.
Relevance: Assisting coastal communities to adapt to a changing climate requires input from different disciplines and perspectives because there is no single data set or strategy that will give communities what they need to make progress toward adaptation. In coastal New Hampshire, a coalition of organizations, agencies and institutions is working to offer communities the technical assistance, education and facilitation they need to improve their capacity to adapt. Similar coalitions exist elsewhere and these groups can learn from each other.
Response: Following the success of meetings in 2013 and 2014, N.H. Sea Grant worked with Maine Sea Grant to organize and facilitate a third annual meeting between networks of climate change adaptation professionals in both states in September 2015. There were 28 participants.
Results: Both state networks enhanced their ability to serve coastal communities by sharing lessons about forming partnerships, building connections with communities, communicating climate information, supporting the implementation of adaptation in communities, and exchanging lessons learned from successful projects. N.H. Sea Grant staff members served on a planning committee, and N.H. Sea Grant was the primary coordinator in crafting the agenda based on a collective impact framework as well as hosting and evaluating the meeting. Participants reported that the gathering provided them with relevant ideas for their communities as well as access to tools or people that can help them.

2014

N.H. town leaders gain knowledge and motivation for coastal adaptation with NHSG assistance
By using inclusive engagement processes, addressing relevant needs and providing high quality technical information, N.H. Sea Grant and partners continued to build knowledge and motivation in N.H.’s community leaders and climate adaptation champions during 2014.
RELEVANCE: A needs assessment of community leaders in the Northeast reports that at least one third of communities recognize climate effects – increased flooding, increasingly frequent severe precipitation and rising sea levels – but are not sure what to do about it or feel that they lack capacity to do anything about it (Clean Air-Cool Planet, 2011).
RESPONSE: N.H. Sea Grant, in partnership with other members of the Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW), delivers both broad based education and targeted assistance to leaders in the 42 coastal communities. Broad-based education is offered through at least two workshops or educational events per year.
RESULTS: Since its inception in 2010, over 260 community leaders representing over 50 towns from three states have participated in the Water, Weather, Climate and Community workshop series. The largest representation comes from local governments and includes volunteer board members, municipal staff members and elected officials. Participants indicate that as a result of the workshops at least 80% are gaining knowledge about climate adaptation, becoming more motivated to do something to address climate impacts, reporting improved capacity, and planning to apply what they have learned. Between 30-50% of workshop respondents intend to change a plan, policy, regulation or practice based on what they learned.

NHSG helps N.H. town leaders increase their capacity to adapt to a changing climate
By leveraging resources, addressing specific needs, providing relevant technical information, and facilitating engagement over a period of time, N.H. Sea Grant and partners continued to build capacity in N.H.’s coastal communities for climate adaptation during 2014.
RELEVANCE: A needs assessment of community leaders in the Northeast reports that at least one third of communities recognize climate effects – increased flooding, increasingly frequent severe precipitation and rising sea levels – but are not sure what to do about it or feel that they lack capacity to do anything about it (Clean Air-Cool Planet, 2011).
RESPONSE: N.H. Sea Grant, in partnership with other members of the Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW), delivers targeted assistance to leaders in the 42 coastal communities. Assistance is typically delivered via funded projects (over $2.75M since 2010) generated by CAW team members and has provided specific communities with targeted technical tools, assistance and outreach on climate adaptation.
RESULTS: As of 2014, targeted projects have resulted in at least 16 coastal communities increasing their technical, financial and human resources for adaptation. Community level outcomes that have occurred for at least two communities each within the coastal watershed include drawing additional community members to committees and other forms of public participation, improving cross-board or departmental communication, digitizing data for maps, participating in vulnerability assessments, contributing to economic analyses, modifying master plan chapters, and identifying protection priorities related to sea level rise, floodplains or flood storage.

N.H. Sea Grant Doyle Fellow writes report about “champions” of climate adaptation in New England
N.H. Sea Grant produced a 32-page report, "Sustaining champions of climate adaptation in coastal communities: a Northern New England study." The report was researched and written by a 2014 NHSG undergraduate Doyle Fellow who conducted semi-structured interviews of people identified as climate adaptation promoters and implementers in southern Maine, northern Mass. and N.H. The report focuses on the challenges faced by leaders in coastal communities who are helping their municipality adapt to sea-level rise, increases in heavy precipitation and flooding. Thus far, it has been distributed to professional climate adaptation networks in New England that are providing assistance to communities, including Maine, Conn. and the Upper Valley of N.H. and Vt., and findings have also been shared nationally. The report encourages expanded support for coordinated, locally grounded climate adaptation assistance to help these champions to continue their efforts to protect their communities and to "normalize" climate preparedness in community decision-making.

N.H. Sea Grant enhances floodplain mapping project
Beginning in 2010, a UNH-led team funded by the UNH/NOAA Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) developed a new set of 100-year floodplain maps (www.100yearfloods.org) for coastal N.H.’s Lamprey River watershed based on current and projected climate and land use conditions. NHSG extension staff assisted with the community engagement and evaluation components of the project. The mapping team engaged an advisory committee in order to make sure that the maps were relevant for community use and to help identify users and barriers to use. Among the changes and enhancements the advisory committee suggested was the need to address legal concerns related to potential adoption of the new maps for decision making as well as for training to ease use of the maps. A National Sea Grant Law Center-funded project addressed the legal concerns in 2012. A third related project was funded by N.H. Sea Grant in early 2014 that supported training for map use and the associated legal findings as well as an economic analysis of damages associated with the new 100-year flood levels on building stock in three pilot communities and a complementary communications campaign.

NHSG and partners convene Annual N.H. Climate Summit
The N.H. Climate Summit is an annual discussion and collaborative forum among scientists, agencies, municipal leaders, watershed organizations and citizens concerned about the impacts of climate change in coastal New Hampshire. N.H. Sea Grant staff helped to organize the April 2014 summit and contributed specifically to development of a mini needs assessment that was conducted during the event, which over 110 community leaders attend. The fourth Annual Climate Summit is scheduled for June 2015.

NHSG gathers Maine and N.H. climate adaptation professionals for regional roundtable
Following the success of the first inaugural meeting in 2013, N.H. Sea Grant worked with Maine Sea Grant to organize and facilitate a second meeting between climate change adaptation professionals from networks in both states in June of 2014. Both groups enhanced their ability to serve coastal communities by sharing lessons about forming partnerships, building connections with communities, communicating climate information, and exchanging lessons learned about successful projects.

N.H. Sea Grant develops database to strengthen coordination of adaptation efforts in the coastal watershed
The N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW) is a coalition of over 20 non-profit, business, municipal, academic, regional, state and federal partners engaged in promoting climate adaptation in N.H.’s coastal watershed. Sea Grant staff contribute to CAW in a number of ways, including participating in the CAW outreach sub-group and leading the development of a system to track and document the collective results of the workgroup in terms of what communities do with the assistance provided them. In 2014, the “outcomes matrix” was converted into a sharable database. CAW members are invited to submit outcomes from the community-based projects they work on so that they can be entered in the database. The database is critical to being able to describe the collective impact of CAW team members’ efforts in the seacoast region. The information drawn from the database also helped Sea Grant staff produce a poster and a two-pager used to succinctly describe collective results. These pieces were used to share information about climate adaptation efforts in coastal N.H. with a USDA administrator and others in 2014.

N.H. Sea Grant staffer serves as liaison to regional USDA Climate Hub
Following the establishment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Climate Hub system in 2014, a N.H. Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension staff member was appointed by the dean of Cooperative Extension to serve as the liaison for the University of New Hampshire. In this role, Sea Grant connects the University’s researchers and local stakeholders to the Northeast Hub to share technologies and risk management practices for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

N.H. Sea Grant and partners build adaptation capacity in coastal communities
N.H. Sea Grant works with partners in the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW), a five-year-old coalition of representatives from over 20 federal, state, regional, municipal and academic institutions as well as several private businesses, to support communities to improve their climate adaptation and community resilience. CAW members include researchers as well as outreach specialists and planners who deliver information, education, facilitation and technical assistance in tune with a community’s social, economic and environmental situation. CAW members deliver outreach to broad audiences through a workshop series, Water, Weather, Climate and Community, and a website, newsletter and blog located within StormSmart Coasts, an online resource for coastal decision makers. In June 2014, a CAW workshop on floodplains and the Community Rating System, a means by which communities decrease flood insurance rates for residents by adopting higher floodplain standards, attracted over 25 participants from 17 communities. Through 2014, CAW has worked with representatives from over 35 communities in three states. CAW also conducts targeted outreach through externally funded projects. Since 2010, CAW members have secured over $2.75M in grant funding for technical tool development, technical assistance and community engagement, and received a regional planning award in 2012 as well as an EPA Environmental Merit Award in 2015. CAW’s work has generated increases in knowledge, motivation and confidence levels related to climate adaptation as reported by over 260 community participants and documented changes in capacity building (human, financial and technical resources), data and information access, planning tools, regulation and policies, and voluntary actions for over 16 communities. Presentations about CAW’s projects, methods and measures were offered at national, state and institutional conferences and meetings during 2014.

N.H. Sea Grant and partners help three-town working group build capacity to address climate change
Building on momentum from a partnership project in 2011-2012, N.H. Sea Grant and partners collaborated with the Seabrook-Hamptons Estuary Alliance (SHEA) for a series of workshops in the summer and fall of 2014 in response to their request to engage more people in the communities around climate change. The workshop series resulted in a prioritized list of concerns among the three towns: Hampton Falls, Hampton and Seabrook. The list included issues the three towns have identified as important to work on together, such as enrollment in the Community Rating System, a means by which communities decrease flood insurance rates for residents by adopting higher floodplain standards.

N.H. Sea Grant and partners help community identify and prioritize climate change concerns
With help from several partners, N.H. Sea Grant worked with the town of Rye to gather approximately 65 community members for a series of workshops held during the spring and summer of 2014 to learn about climate change, identify concerns, and prioritize areas for action. This involved a workshop focused on climate change impacts to coastal New Hampshire, a field trip to a salt marsh with a University of New Hampshire ecologist, a workshop about municipal tools and strategies, a presentation from participants to the town’s board of selectmen, and a wrap-up workshop to identify next steps, including enrolling in FEMA’s Community Rating Systems, a means by which communities decrease flood insurance rates for residents by adopting higher floodplain standards.

N.H. Sea Grant helps plan Seacoast Shoreline Management Conference
Rising sea levels and increasing threats from storm surge are heightening the need for thoughtful and coordinated approaches to shoreline management in N.H.’s seacoast region. The Seacoast Shoreline Management Conference, held in December 2014, introduced over 110 participants to shoreline management concepts, covered the benefits and drawbacks of different techniques, and helped explore a range of perspectives and values associated with shoreline management to contribute to a dialogue about how N.H. should address shoreline stressors. NHSG staff participated on the overall planning team and led the sub-group responsible for developing and implementing two interactive sessions during the day-long event.

NHSG newsletter connects communities with climate change resources
N.H. Sea Grant is the chief editor for a quarterly digital newsletter that provides information to over 325 readers about local climate change projects, events and informational tools. Maintaining this communication tool is key to keeping stakeholders engaged with NHSG and partners interested in enhancing the resilience of coastal communities in New Hampshire and nearby states. Post session questionnaires from various educational events indicate that the newsletter is an effective tool for recruiting participants.

Publications

Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant

Report

  • Sustaining champions of climate adaptation in coastal communities: a northern New England study. Alexandra Philip.

Information Sheet

  • Sustaining champions of climate adaptation in coastal communities: a Northern New England study (2015). Alexandra Philip.

Poster

  • Climate adaptation in coastal New Hampshire: collaborating for greater community capacity (2014). Chris Keeley, Julia Peterson and Amanda Stone.