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NHDES Invests $500K+ in Seacoast Communities
Published Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Great Bay National Estuarine near Portsmouth. Photo: NOAA

The NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES)'s Coastal Program in Portsmouth is directing $521,000 toward five new projects to promote municipal and state flood hazard preparedness and resilience in communities along the Atlantic Coast and Great Bay estuary.

The largest project—titled NH Setting SAIL: Acting on the Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission Science, Assessment, Implementation, and Legislation Recommendations (NH Setting SAIL)is funded through a $249,995 Project of Special Merit grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office for Coastal Management. The project, scheduled to be completed by March 2018, will provide funding for the Coastal Program and partner organizations to assist 10 Great Bay municipalities to carry out their coastal resilience planning and outreach priorities. 

Project partners include the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Great Bay Stewards, both in Greenland; Rockingham Planning Commission in Exeter; Strafford Regional Planning Commission in Rochester; and University of NH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant, both in Durham.

NH Setting SAIL will assist Great Bay municipalities to prioritize and implement actions that meet their needs, including the development of a climate adaptation chapter for the City of Dover Master Plan. The project will also provide capacity for key state agencies to coordinate audits of laws governing the coastal region, as required by Chaptered Law 195/SB 452; complete inventories of vulnerable state assets; and conduct a detailed vulnerability assessment for a specific state asset.

Four additional projects are part of the Coastal Program's Design Solutions for Coastal Resilience grant funding opportunity from last summer. The four projects, selected from 11 applications, are in the contracting phase and are scheduled to be completed by June 2018. They include:

  • In an effort to improve beach and dune management in Hampton and Seabrook, the University of NH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant propose to carry out a second phase of work to restore degraded dune areas, promote a dune grass Community Garden for homeowners, and design new strategies to minimize dune impacts in the remnant NH dune systems that provide habitat and storm protection benefits in southern coastal NH.
  • A proposal from the town of North Hampton seeks to assess drainage issues at the flood-prone Philbrick’s Pond salt marsh adjacent to Route 1A.
  • The Town of Durham sought funds to analyze erosion issues at Wagon Hill Farm and design a nature-based erosion control solution.
  • The Rockingham Planning Commission was selected based on its proposal to work with the city of Portsmouth and the towns of Rye, Hampton and Seabrook to implement high water mark installations depicting historical and possible future flood elevations.

Funds for this grant are provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act in conjunction with the NHDES Coastal Program.   

These projects were prompted by the final report from the Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission, established by legislation in August 2013 to help coastal communities and the state prepare for projected sea level rise and other coastal and coastal watershed hazards. The bipartisan Commission unanimously adopted the final report, which summarizes NH’s vulnerabilities to projected coastal flood hazards and puts forth guidelines for 17 coastal zone municipalities to minimize flood risk and enhance resilience.

NHDES participated in the development of the Commission recommendations and will oversee implementation over the next several years. Sherry Godlewski, the NHDES representative on the commission and co-chair of the New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup, says “The Commission’s report provides much-needed guidance on how to begin building resilience in our coastal communities and state agency operations. The Report’s sound science and planning guidance support what our municipal and state decision makers have told us they wanted. They have asked for this guidance, and they are ready to act.”

Godlewski says coastal communities in NH have long been thinking about and taking small steps to reduce their flood risks from storm surge, sea-level rise and extreme rain events, adding that the NHDES Coastal Program grant projects will assist these communities and state agencies to address these concerns. 

To kick things off, project partners will host two region-specific workshops focused on strategies to address coastal flooding in the Great Bay and Atlantic Coast municipalities. The Great Bay Workshop will take place on March 23  at 5:30 pm at the Newmarket Town Hall, with more information available here. The Atlantic Coast Workshop will take place on April 13 at 5:30pm at the Hampton Falls Town Hall, with more information available here

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