Enhancing Sea Grant's Ability to Help Coastal Communities Adapt to Climate Change (2010-2011)

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Julia Peterson N.H. Sea Grant Principal Investigator
Jonathan Pennock N.H. Sea Grant Co-Principal Investigator
It should come as no surprise to municipal administrators, workers and board members in the Northeast that, indeed, occurrences of extreme precipitation and the intensity of rainfall are increasing. These local officials have had to deal with the flooding, damaged infrastructure, culvert failures, effects of polluted runoff and pressure on municipal budgets and services that have accompanied 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 new climate conditions.
Current work of N.H. Sea Grant and its partners working in New Hampshire's 42 coastal watershed communities indicates that towns benefit from the education, technical assistance and facilitation provided by these supporters, especially for natural resource protection. Recent conversations with municipal officials and partners indicate that communities desire and would benefit from education, technical assistance and facilitation related to mitigating hazards and adapting to climate change. Communities are looking for practical and sound tools and techniques that will assist them, especially with longer term decisions. The challenge for community supporters, like Sea Grant, will be to help local officials meet present day challenges while preparing for likely scenarios of the future. At this point in time, only a couple of New Hampshire's coastal communities have done any formal adaptation planning, however, good examples within the broader New England region exist.
Deliverables include:
•      A 1 -2 day workshop (segments 1 and 2) for municipal officials - agendas for each segment,
workshop materials, a report and a presentation about the events.
•    A summary of results from the focus group.
Within the project time-frame, it's estimated that between 12 and 20 coastal communities will be represented at the workshop where they will receive information about hazard mitigation and resiliency techniques.
With continued support, it's anticipated that at least 3 N.H. communities will adopt and/or implement plans, policies and practices that incorporate better energy efficiency and/or climate change preparedness through better land use planning or green infrastructure as a result of Sea Grant activities within the next 18 months.

Based on the challenges facing coastal communities in New Hampshire, N.H. Sea Grant proposes to co-host a training workshop for local officials on Planning for Climate Change in partnership with the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve during FY2010. The workshop will be largely based on the Planning for Climate Change workshop held in Washington State and introduced at the Sea Grant Climate Change Network meeting in South Carolina in November 2009. The workshop is likely to include two independent, but related segments. The first segment will be designed to increase participants’ comfort with climate science and some basic questions - Is the climate changing in significant ways? Is so, what is causing that change? How might it change in the next 100 years? The second segment will include a review of climate impact projections for the region, a session on the benefits and drawbacks of adapting, an introduction to adaptation planning principles and strategies, an overview of existing tools and resources to assist with adaptation, a discussion of barriers to adaptation and overcoming them, an interactive session on identifying community vulnerabilities, and a showcase of local or regional examples of communities that have increased their preparedness in some way. It is anticipated that the workshop will provide a figurative launching pad for subsequent training and dialogue opportunities among NOAA partners, local and regional climate scientists, agencies, related organizations, regional planners and municipalities. A group of these partners has recently convened the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup, under the leadership of the NERR CTP, and will play a major role in planning, preparing and delivering the workshop according to local needs. In order to provide some post-workshop direction, N.H. Sea Grant also proposes to gather information about coastal communities and their capacity needs in adapting to climate change including what barriers to adaptation may exist. This will be collected via an interactive session at the workshop and through additional focus groups if necessary. A review of the results of prior needs assessments (NOAA Coastal Managers, Oregon Sea Grant, Clean Air-Cool Planet, Forging the Link and others) will be done to inform how the local focus groups on future directions will be

NHSG and Partners Help Prepare State’s Coastal Communities for Climate Change
The N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW) formed by NHSG and its partners helps prepare for the effects of climate change. The CAW workshop series “Water, Weather, Climate and Community” is intended not only to discuss climate information but also to nurture local leadership in climate preparedness and build relationships that will strengthen coastal communities' capacity to access relevant climate-related data and improve climate ready planning, policies and practices. Workshops II and III were held in 2011, and workshop IV will be held in early 2012. Workshop II focused on vulnerability assessments as part of adaptation planning, and workshop III focused on sharing examples from communities within the region that are taking climate adaptation steps.
N.H. Sea Grant-led Project Updates State’s 100-year Floodplain Maps
During 2011, N.H. Sea Grant coordinated a research project that is exploring the legal authority, measures and consequences associated with the use of “new” 100-year floodplain maps by coastal communities in New Hampshire. Current FEMA floodplain maps are largely based on land uses and precipitation data from before the 1980s. Today’s higher percentages of impervious cover along with higher intensity storms compound the volume and flashiness of stormwater runoff and contribute to flooding across New England. As a result, an interdisciplinary team at the University of New Hampshire is creating an updated set of 100-year flood maps for a coastal watershed based on current and projected land use and climatic conditions. The UNH team anticipates that communities could use the data to help protect health, property and infrastructure. The mapping team engaged a community based advisory group to ground the effort and discovered that community leaders were concerned not only about accurate maps, but about the legal implications of using updated maps. With support from the National Sea Grant Law Center, faculty and students from Vermont Law School Land Use Clinic conducted legal research to help contextualize anticipated uses of the new floodplain maps.
NHSG and Partners Present COAST Model to Communities
The COAST (Coastal Adaptation to Sea Level Rise Tool) model was developed by the New England Environmental Finance Center as a decision support tool. A grant from the EPA Climate Ready Estuaries program awarded to a Sea Grant partner enabled the COAST model to be used with three N.H. coastal communities. The modeling tool provides an economic analysis of different sea level rise adaptation actions or lack thereof. N.H. Sea Grant Extension is working with partners in the Coastal Adaptation Workgroup to present the model and gather input from the communities to identify what assets and management options the community would like to see used in the analysis. The initial meeting was held in fall of 2011 and interactions with the communities continue as the analysis progresses.
NHSG Contributes to StormSmart Coasts Website
StormSmart Coasts is a “resource for coastal decision makers looking for the latest and best information on how to protect their communities from weather and climate hazards” (http://stormsmartcoasts.org/). The StormSmart Coast website is searchable by state and houses state-specific information. N.H. Sea Grant is a member of the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup which provides content for New Hampshire’s pages and is an active contributor.


Sea Grant-supported Climate Change Training Appreciated by N.H. Coastal Communities 

Local officials in New Hampshire's 43 coastal communities have had to deal with the flooding, damaged infrastructure, culvert failures, effects of polluted runoff and pressure on municipal budgets and services that accompany extreme precipitation events in recent years. NHSG and its partners formed the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (CAW) to help prepare for the effects of climate change. In 2010, CAW developed a workshop series called Water, Weather, Climate and Community intended to not only discuss climate information but was also intended to nurture local leadership in climate preparedness and build relationships that will strengthen coastal communities' capacity to access relevant climate-related data and improve climate ready planning, policies and practices. Thirty-six participants representing 20 N.H. coastal communities attended the first workshop. Post-session questionnaires indicated greater than 80% of participants reported an increase in knowledge about recent weather trends in N.H., and most agreed the workshops helped them meet others with similar climate-related concerns, express their community's needs for technical, educational and financial assistance, and feel more comfortable discussing climate and location related information with people.

Climate Literacy Training Introduced Regional NOAA Professionals to Climate Science, Resources and Services

The N.H. Sea Grant climate specialist attended the NOAA North Atlantic Regional Team (NART) Tier 1 Climate Literacy training and then coordinated with other regional attendees to host a “tier 2” workshop to introduce other NOAA professionals within the region to NOAA climate science, resources and services. The event was attended by 16 NOAA representatives, including professionals from National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Northeast Coastal Services Center and Sea Grant. The workshop was also designed to introduce these regional professionals to each other and for all attendees to learn what their NOAA colleagues are doing related to climate research and outreach in order to strengthen the network for future climate efforts. Participants agreed that they learned more about climate science and NOAA’s organization, the state of climate science, uncertainty and climate science, downscaling, communicating climate science, the NOAA climate portal, and climate research and outreach being conducted within the region.
Workshop Teaches Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Planning
One of the first activities of the Coastal Community Climate Adaptation Initiative was to deliver a workshop at the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association’s annual conference. The workshop focused on how community hazard mitigation planning can be one tool for integrating climate preparedness and the parallels between climate adaptation and hazard mitigation planning. The team of presenters included staff from the state’s hazard mitigation program. Participants engaged in lively discussion and most strongly agreed that they learned more about hazard mitigation planning as well as climate adaptation planning and other methods for integrating climate preparedness into planning activities.