Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (2012-2013)

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Project Type: 
Extension
Project Number: 
A/C-1

Participants:

Julia Peterson N.H. Sea Grant Principal Investigator
Chris Keeley N.H. Sea Grant Communities and Climate Program Assistant
Situation: 
In the Northeast, occurrences of extreme precipitation and the intensity of rainfall are increasing. Local officials have had to deal with the flooding, damaged infrastructure and property, culvert failures, human health issues, effects of polluted runoff and pressure on municipal budgets and services that accompany extreme precipitation numerous times in recent years. In coastal areas in the Northeast, these effects are often exacerbated by high rates of imperviousness and flood prone development. The serious economic, environmental and social effects of severe weather and projected changes in climate behoove communities to do what they can to prevent damage and prepare for a "new normal" in terms of climate conditions, however planning and readiness activities at the municipal level are often usurped by immediate threats, budgetary restraints, political pressures and discomfort accessing or applying scientific data. N.H. Sea Grant in collaboration with its partners can help coastal communities make progress in climate adpatation by offering assistance to communities when, where, how and with what they need help.
Goals: 

Coastal communities in New Hampshire employ strategies to imrpove their resilience to severe weather, sea level rise, flooding and other climate effects that pose risks to life, health, property and infrastructure.

Objectives: 

1.     Decision makers, municipal staff members, planners, community leaders, development professionals, environmental organizations and others representing at least 20 communities learn about current and projected climate conditions as well as related tools and techniques to assist them in incorporating current and projected climate considerations into decision making.

 

2.     At least 3 communities will request and receive assistance from N.H. Sea Grant and partners in order to develop an adaptation plan or a regional adaptation plan for their community.

Accomplishments: 

2013

N.H. town leaders gain knowledge and motivation for adaptation as a result of Sea Grant assistance
By using inclusive engagement processes, addressing relevant needs and providing high quality technical information, in 2013 N.H. Sea Grant and partners continued to build knowledge and motivation in N.H.’s community leaders and climate adaptation champions.

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 two workshops per year.

RESULTS: Since its inception in 2010, over 250 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% have gained knowledge about climate adaptation, are more motivated to do something to address climate impacts, report improved capacity, and plan 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.

 

N.H. town leaders increase their capacity to adapt to a changing climate with Sea Grant assistance
By leveraging resources, addressing specific needs, providing relevant technical information and facilitating engagement, N.H. Sea Grant and partners built and continue to build capacity in N.H.’s coastal communities for climate adaptation during 2013.

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. Targeted assistance is typically delivered via funded projects (over $2.5M since 2010) generated by CAW team members and has provided specific communities with targeted technical tools, assistance and outreach on climate adaptation.

RESULTS: Targeted projects have resulted in at least nine 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.

Sea Grant gathers Maine and N.H. climate adaptation professionals for regional roundtable
N.H. Sea Grant worked with Maine Sea Grant to organize and facilitate a meeting between climate change adaptation professionals from networks in both states in June of 2013. 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 strengthens coordination of adaptation efforts in the coastal watershed
The N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW) is a coalition of non-profit, business, municipal, academic, regional, state and federal representatives, including N.H. Sea Grant, engaged in climate adaptation in N.H.’s coastal watershed. To capture synergies in programming, to harmonize projects, and to coordinate interactions with similar audiences, NHSG helped plan and facilitate the first CAW retreat in February 2013. The retreat resulted in the development of a mission statement for the coalition and a policy for utilizing partner interns to advance the group’s mission, as well as strategic actions to leverage the coalition’s strengths, address its weaknesses, capitalize on its opportunities, and mitigate its threats. The retreat results will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the coalition to benefit N.H. communities as it enters its fourth year of collaborative efforts in supporting communities with adaptation. Sea Grant has also contributed by 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. The “outcomes matrix” is being converted into an Access database that will be accessible in 2014 to workgroup members who work on community-based projects.

Sea Grant and partners convene stakeholders of Northern New England in second 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 helped to organize the 2013 summit, moderated a discussion, and delivered a presentation about key factors that support communities with climate adaptation. Close to 100 community leaders attended the April event. A third annual summit is planned for 2014.

N.H. Sea Grant and partners help over 130 Dover community members plan for climate change
Over a period of several months in 2013, N.H. Sea Grant and partners convened community members from the city of Dover to explore a few of the complex questions related to planning for climate change. Role-play simulations based on interviews with city leaders and residents provided community members with a first-hand account of how planning for climate change presents challenges to municipal officials and staff, engineers, business, planners and residents. These educational workshops and dialogue starters were a significant benefit to the city because its engaged citizenry will be instrumental in supporting future climate adaptation efforts. Dover has used this momentum to secure two additional grants to advance climate adaptation.

Sea Grant and partners help town of Exeter prepare for climate change
N.H. Sea Grant helped Exeter community members identify local values and assets vulnerable to climate change during spring of 2013. A team of scientists at the University of New Hampshire and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve are using this information to create a flexible, science-based, locally relevant adaptation plan with the community. Complex models of drainage, flooding, ecosystems and public safety were completed by the scientists, and NHSG will continue working with the project team to facilitate team meetings, gather community members for meetings, facilitate stakeholder meetings that exchange and inform the science, and help the town address their vulnerabilities in ways that make sense to them in the form of a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for Exeter.

Sea Grant and partners convene estuary towns to identify next steps in adaptation to sea level rise
The towns of Hampton, Hampton Falls and Seabrook were among the first communities in New Hampshire’s coastal watershed to pursue an economic analysis of sea level rise and storm surge impacts and potential actions or lack thereof. With support from an EPA grant to the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership and facilitation from N.H. Sea Grant and other members of the Coastal Adaptation Workgroup, the communities participated between 2010 and 2012 in the Coastal Adaptation to Sea Level Rise Tool (COAST) modeling exercise. By the completion of the modeling component, the three communities had prioritized assets for protection and needed follow-up assistance to move forward. In October 2013, N.H. Sea Grant helped convene the communities to identify steps to move forward with adaptation to sea level rise and storm surge. The towns expressed interest in working together as a three-town working group to protect the social and natural resources of their common estuary. The towns have since formed the Seabrook-Hampton Estuary Alliance (inspired by the COAST project) and applied for and gained assistance from NHSG and partners to keep moving forward with adaptation via the Resilient New Hampshire Coasts project.

N.H. Sea Grant manages newsletter to connect communities with climate change planning
N.H. Sea Grant is the chief editor for The Crow’s Nest, a quarterly digital newsletter that provides information to over 200 readers about local climate change projects, events, resources and informational tools. Maintaining this tool is key to keeping stakeholders engaged with Sea Grant and its partners interested in enhancing the resilience of coastal communities in New Hampshire and nearby states. The digital newsletter is distributed primarily through contact lists, which include current and former attendees of Coastal Adaptation Workgroup sponsored events.

N.H. Sea Grant facilitates climate change sessions at state water conference
Each year, the N.H. Water and Watersheds Conference provides current information about New Hampshire’s water resources and related topics. Approximately 200 people attend the event, typically held annually in March, to hear a variety of talks and network with other people interested in water resources. In 2013, N.H. Sea Grant organized the morning and afternoon sessions focused on climate change by reviewing abstracts, arranging speakers and moderating the talks. The morning session focused on delivering cutting-edge research about drought and flood impacts, while the afternoon session presented attendees with an overview of climate adaptation in the N.H. Seacoast (including NHSG’s work with the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup), stakeholder engagement methods (presented by NHSG), and conclusions from a legal study of climate adaptation topics funded by the National Sea Grant Law Center (also presented by NHSG). Both sessions were widely attended by citizens, municipal volunteers and staff, watershed groups, scientists, and agency staff from throughout the state.

N.H. Sea Grant enhances floodplain mapping project
Beginning in 2010, a UNH-led team funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) developed a new set of 100-year floodplain maps (www.100yearfloods.org) for a coastal N.H. watershed based on current and projected climate and land use conditions. N.H. Sea Grant 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 the new maps as well as for training to accompany the maps. A National Sea Grant Law Center-funded project addressed the legal concerns in 2012 and a 2013 NHSG-funded project provided training on both use of the maps and the legal research findings. The initial project results were shared during 2013 at a campus-based discussion in March among faculty and extension staff on climate adaptation outreach, a session on water resources-related climate adaptation at a state-wide water and watersheds conference in March for professionals and community leaders, and a coast-wide workshop in April highlighting floodplains and climate adaptation for community leaders.

N.H. Sea Grant and partners’ workshops focus on adaptation and resilience
N.H. Sea Grant works with partners in the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW), a coalition of representatives from 19 federal, state, regional, municipal and academic institutions, to help communities to improve their climate adaptation and community resilience by delivering 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. CAW held its first workshop in 2010 and two each year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The 2013 workshops were Building Resilience for Better Floodplain Management (April 2013) and How is Climate Change Affecting N.H.’s Wildlife Right Now (July 2013). During 2013, CAW 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 $2.5M in grant funding for technical tool development, technical assistance and community engagement and received a regional planning award. CAW’s work has generated increases in knowledge, motivation and confidence levels related to climate adaptation as reported by over 250 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 2013.

2012

N.H. Sea Grant Shepherds a Coastal Watershed Community into Climate Adaptation Actions
RELEVANCE: N.H.’s coastal watershed includes 42 communities, most of which are small and have few professional staff members. Recent studies, including one conducted by Clean Air-Cool Planet (2011), indicate that such communities are experiencing the effects of a changing climate, but are unsure what to do about it. 
RESPONSE: In 2012 using leveraged funding, New Hampshire Sea Grant staff and partners applied a modified version of the NOAA Roadmap (a participatory community-based process) to assist Newfields, a coastal watershed community, to assess its climate vulnerabilities, identify priorities and take steps to improve its preparedness for climate effects. 
RESULTS: Newfields formed committees that developed an adaptation action plan with two foci: stormwater management and emergency preparedness. Their stormwater management strategies include hosting Forging the Link (an education program about the economics of low impact development), inventorying their stormwater infrastructure, updating their master plan for climate effects, and adopting subdivision and site plan review regulations to reduce polluted runoff. The town is actively improving preparedness through a new emergency communication system and development of a calendar for town residents with storm-related tips. Residents are also purchasing discounted generators through a bulk purchase approved by the town’s selectboard, representing a combined $600 in savings of purchase and installation costs and further economic benefit from recaptured lost productivity during power outages.
RECAP: A small coastal community in New Hampshire uses assistance from NHSG to take concrete steps to become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

N.H. Sea Grant and Partners Receive Award for Climate Adaptation Work
N.H. Sea Grant carries out much of its climate-related work in partnership with the New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (NHCAW or CAW), a coalition of 19 organizations and agencies focused on helping coastal communities in New Hampshire prepare for extreme weather and climate effects. CAW provides communities with education, facilitation and technical assistance that improve their access to climate-related information and people, as well as helps them build their capacity and adjust their plans, regulations and actions to take changing climate conditions into account. In 2012, CAW received the Daniel Quinlan award for Outstanding Achievement in Community and Regional Planning from the Rockingham Planning Commission. The award recognizes those in the region who have made significant contributions to sound community and regional planning and have fostered inter-municipal cooperation and collaboration. This award stems from the successes of five public workshops around climate change hosted by CAW since 2010, a quarterly CAW newsletter, and nearly a dozen collaborative climate change adaptation projects with N.H. coastal communities.

N.H. Sea Grant Helps Define Community Adaptation Outcomes for Region
Recognizing and implementing climate adaptation, as such, is a relatively new task for municipalities and for those who support local decision making. In recognition of this challenge, in 2012 N.H. Sea Grant staff compiled a set of about 45 observed and potential outcomes communities might achieve with assistance from adaptation practitioners. The list was developed to help recognize, guide and document steps communities take to improve their resilience. The outcomes are grouped into five categories – Increasing Community Capacity, Conducting Research and Assessments, Modifying Plans, Adopting Regulations and Policies, and Taking Municipal Actions (voluntarily). The outcomes were shared with the 19 partner organizations and agencies composing New Hampshire’s Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW) and are being adopted and used as a tool to help define climate adaptation for CAW and partners at the community- and project-level. Having a shared definition of community-based adaptation outcomes should help climate adaptation practitioners within the region and elsewhere to communicate more clearly, coordinate efforts more effectively, and track results collectively over time. It also helps communities recognize what types of actions constitute climate adaptation. The list will continue to evolve as new outcomes emerge and others fade based on actual community actions.

NHSG Coordinates and Shares Research on Legal Aspects of New 100-Year Floodplain Maps
With funding from a National Sea Grant Law Center grant, N.H. Sea Grant coordinated legal research to accompany the development of new 100-year floodplain maps by a UNH-led team for a coastal watershed. The new maps reflect risk from current and projected precipitation rates and land use and differ from the most recently available FEMA maps. Engagement between the mapping team and a local advisory committee was an important component of the project in order to ensure the maps were relevant and to help identify users and barriers to use. The legal research was inspired by suggestions from the advisory committee that fear of legal challenges could be a barrier to use of the maps. The study, carried out by four faculty and 18 students at Vermont Law School, investigated five primary questions, including one exploring possible options available to communities for managing development within floodplains. The results, publically reported in 2012, confirm that N.H. communities can and should do what they can through planning, regulatory and non-regulatory strategies to protect health and property within the new floodplains. In order to minimize the likelihood of legal challenges, community actions should be based on sound planning, appropriate statutes and clear purposes, and they should preserve some economic viability for the affected land. It is anticipated that the information from this important study will help reduce barriers to communities taking action to protect health and property on evolving floodplains. The results of the legal research were presented in June 2012, both to a national audience at the Coastal Society Conference as well as in a public forum within the mapped watershed. Several opportunities are planned to share the findings with institutional, state and regional audiences.

N.H. Sea Grant Partners with Mapping Team to Assess Project Outputs and Engagement Process
Beginning in 2010, a UNH-led team funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) developed a new set of 100-year floodplain maps for a coastal N.H. watershed based on current and projected climate and land use conditions. 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. NHSG worked with the mapping team in 2012 to assess the effects of engaging with the advisory committee on the map products and the project overall. Seven substantial changes to the maps were made by the technical team based on input from the advisory committee. These included changes to the terminology, symbology, scenarios and tables used. The advisory committee also identified the need for legal research in order to reduce barriers to use of the maps. Based on NHSG’s initial assessments, the mapping team produced better products based on input from the advisory committee. The advisory committee as well as other stakeholders pointed out the need for training to accompany the maps, so training and additional use assessment are being planned for 2013-14.

N.H. Sea Grant and Partners Build Adaptation Capacity in Coastal Communities
N.H. Sea Grant carries out most of its climate adaptation work with its partners in the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW), a coalition composed of representatives from 19 federal, state, regional, municipal and academic institutions. CAW members support communities wishing to improve their climate adaptation and community resilience by delivering information, education, facilitation and technical assistance in tune with a community’s social, economic and environmental situation. CAW members deliver adaptation outreach to broad audiences through events like its workshops series, Water, Weather, Climate and Community, and its website, newsletter and blog located within StormSmart Coasts, an online resource for coastal decision makers. CAW held its first workshop in 2010 and two more each in 2011 and 2012. The 2012 workshops introduced a regional climate assessment, Climate Change in the Piscataqua/Great Bay Region: Past, Present and Future and New Hampshire based examples of climate adaptation. By the end of 2012, CAW had worked with representatives from over 25 communities in three different states. The sixth workshop on Building Resilience through Better Floodplain Management is scheduled for spring 2013. CAW also conducts targeted outreach through specific funded projects. Since its inception, CAW members have secured over $2.5M in grant funding for technical tool development, technical assistance and community engagement and received a regional planning award. In terms of community accomplishments, CAW has generated increases in knowledge, motivation and confidence levels related to climate adaptation as reported by over 200 community participants and documented community changes in capacity building (human, financial and technical resources), data and information access, planning tools, regulation and policies, and voluntary actions for over 15 communities. Presentations about CAW’s projects, methods and measures will be offered at national, state and institutional conferences and meetings during 2013. A formal evaluation of the model is being considered so that successful elements of the coalition and its methods can be shared with other programs and improvements can be made.

N.H. Sea Grant Partners on a Climate Adaptation Plan for Exeter
In 2012, N.H. Sea Grant and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, along with an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of New Hampshire and staff from the town of Exeter, embarked on a two-year collaborative effort to develop a robust climate adaptation plan for Exeter (CAPE). Sea Grant’s participation in the project’s engagement committee has led to a sound outreach plan to connect with stakeholders in a meaningful way, including plans to coordinate a citizen working group to guide the implementation of the project. Sea Grant leveraged its connections with the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup to bring in a partner with expertise on – and an ongoing interaction with – the business community. This effectively created a complete outreach effort to all sectors of the community. N.H. Sea Grant has also started development of a CAPE project website for the community to access information about climate change, information about the project, the timeline of activities, and how to contact the members of the project team. Sea Grant’s partnership on the CAPE project benefits Exeter through increased awareness and understanding of the project thorough engagement and access to the project team.

N.H. Sea Grant Disseminates Results of UNH Climate Change Assessment
In 2011, University of New Hampshire researchers released an assessment of the climate of coastal New Hampshire titled, Climate Change in the Great Bay/Piscataqua Region: Past, Present, and Future. During 2012, N.H. Sea Grant condensed the 54-page assessment into a two-page user-friendly handout appropriate for lay audiences at workshops and events, and also made it available online. This tool was distributed at several workshops as well as to 129 people in the winter edition of the Coastal Adaptation Workgroup’s newsletter, The Crow’s Nest, which is composed and edited by NHSG staff. This climate assessment summary efficiently and effectively communicates the state of coastal N.H.’s climate, and is of great benefit to partners and to the diverse audience affected by climate change who seek to gain knowledge and understanding of the local climate.

N.H. Sea Grant Helps Local Communities Engage in Climate Adaptation
N.H. Sea Grant and project partners are working with the City of Dover to create a role-play game simulation to aid area communities in planning for climate change. During 2012, N.H. Sea Grant and partners interviewed Dover city officials, emergency management professionals, concerned citizens, business owners and community leaders to collect the data for the game. This project is one of four concurrent case studies investigating the utility of this approach in fostering adaptation planning. The results from this effort will benefit the target communities and others around the country searching for an effective way to identify climate vulnerabilities and to think through socially, economically and environmentally acceptable adaptation strategies.

Resource Created to Help Journalists Report on Climate Change
In 2012, N.H. Sea Grant helped to create a new webpage on StormSmart Coasts, The Journalists Room, as a resource to support local journalists in reporting rich and accurate stories related to climate change. Journalists can quickly access key information for reporting on climate change, including climate science 101 materials, climate impacts, climate media, and contact information for community leaders to get local perspectives.

Publications

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

Information Sheet

  • New Hampshire's climate: past and future changes (2013). Chris Keeley.

Poster

  • Climate adaptation in Coastal New Hampshire: collaborating for greater community capacity (2013). Chris Keeley and Julia Peterson.

Website

  • StormSmart Coasts New Hampshire website (nh.stormsmart.org)

Blog

  • The Crow's Nest: a blog for the New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (nhblog.stormsmart.org)