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Coastal Hazards Commission
May 8, 2006 Meeting Summary
Working Group Updates
Policy - David Lutes, co-chair
Chairs and staff have identified and contacted members. The following issues have been identified as focus areas: discourage development in high-hazard zones, manage growth through executive orders (#181 and #385), and provide incentives through funding. The first full meeting is scheduled for May 19.
Planning & Regulations - Vin Kalishes, co-chair
At the first meeting on May 12, the group will start to evaluate regulations and performance standards, and look at regional management plan efforts.
Hazards Information - John Tommaney, co-chair
A broad range of agencies and interests have been invited to participate. The group will develop a list of hazards information, models, and tools. The target audience and appropriate use will be identified for each source. It is recommended that the final list be provided on a central website for distribution and marketing. The first full meeting is scheduled for May 16.
Note: The meeting scheduled for May 16 was held on May 23.
Protection - Jim O'Connell, co-chair
Eleven members including coastal engineers and geologist have agreed to participate. The group will consider the pros and cons of currently acceptable practices in MA as well as innovative technologies. Constraints will be identified for each.
20-Year Infrastructure Plan - Representative Frank Hynes, chair
The group plans to inventory the condition of coastal infrastructure and prioritize repairs. The inventory will be divided into hard structures and soft approaches such as active management efforts. Ownership, whether it is private, local, state, or joint, will be identified. The South Shore will be the initial focus area for the inventory since it presents all of the challenges and will serve as a good model for the rest of the State. The next meetings are scheduled for May 16, May 30, and June 6. All of the meetings will be held in room 466 of the State House at 10 AM.
Note: The first phase of the inventory will cover the coastal towns of CZM's South Shore Region (Hingham, Hull, Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury, Kingston, and Plymouth). The May 30 and June 6 meetings are postponed until June 13 from 10:30 to 11:30 AM.
Potential Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the Coast - Jeff Williams, USGS
Sea-level rise (SLR) is one of many hazards that affect the coast, but risk due to SLR is increasing. According to tide gauges, sea level has risen 26 cm in the last 100 years. The geologic record and satellites are also being used to define the history of SLR. Climate change is linked to SLR through thermal expansion of oceans, melting of glaciers, ice caps, and ice fields, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is modeling future scenarios based on a global average temperature increase of 1°C (low), 3-4°C (mid), and 5-6°C (high). A 1 ½ percent increase in energy consumption is factored into the high estimate.
Current modeling has been largely affected by Hurricane Katrina. Models did predict that the levees would fail given a 27-35 ft storm surge, which is not a worst-case scenario. LIDAR mapping is a relatively inexpensive and rapid way to get high-resolution topographic information, which is needed to model storm effects such as inundation. Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data is too coarse. USGS, in collaboration with USACE & NASA, collected LIDAR data of beaches and dunes on Cape Cod, but backshore areas lack coverage. FEMA also uses LIDAR data to generate maps and shares data with USGS, NASA, and NOAA. Onshore and offshore data is needed to model the coastline as a system. Unfortunately, the two datasets often don't link very well.
USGS assessed the relative coastal vulnerability of National Park Service resources to SLR. Of the 25 parks assessed, 17 are using the coastal vulnerability index to develop long-term plans.
Overall, SLR is the primary factor of land loss both globally and regionally. However, more scientific information is needed to link SLR with retreat (erosion and inundation) of the shoreline. SLR is accelerating due to climate change, which is following models using mid to high IPCC estimates. Tropical storms are increasing due to the natural cycle of storm activity and the increase in energy (temperature). Storm surge may reach 12-15 ft in MA during a hurricane and result in severe property damage and loss of life.
Jeff also recommended that data should be collected approximately every five years to monitor net changes. The Hazards Information Working Group is putting together an inventory of key data including limitations. The planning horizon should be 50 years due to the lifespan of infrastructure. More detailed plans should be done every 10-15 years.
Hazard Mitigation Planning on Cape Cod - Stacey Justus, Cape Cod Commission
Stacey defined hazard mitigation and stated that we must take action now to reduce future damages. Eight towns on Cape Cod have FEMA-certified local pre-disaster mitigation (PDM) plans. Three towns (Barnstable, Brewster, and Provincetown) are in the planning process. For various reasons, the remaining four towns (Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dennis, and Truro) have not developed local PDM plans. Local and regional planning is expensive, but some grants are available. There are five steps to the scope of work: (1) develop the planning process, (2) hazard identification and risk assessment, (3) vulnerability analysis, (4) mitigation strategy, and (5) plan approval and adoption. Mapping is a huge task for communities. Shoreline change (long term, SLR, or storm induced) and floods were at the top of Cape Cod's hazard identification and ranking. Wildfire, snow/ice accumulation, wind, drought, tornados, and earthquakes followed. Cape Cod Commission worked with local officials to list critical facilities. Thirty-four regional critical facilities were not put on local maps. Water supply was not included on maps because it was not a key issue for flood threat.
Using the SLOSH (Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes) model, the regional vulnerability assessment estimated that 43% of year-round residences (22% of Cape Cod's land area) are located in areas that are likely to be inundated during a hurricane. The regional mitigation strategy included 23 actions. Conservation Commissioners did not participate in writing regional plans, but there was some participation on the local level. The Barnstable County Natural Hazards PDM Plan was adopted in 2004 and certified by FEMA. There have been many challenges and barriers to implementation of the plan including funding and the voluntary nature of implementation. Communities need incentives, defined projects, and education. Town planners have information, but they are not getting it out to their communities. Local capacity for hazard planning and implementation is extremely limited. Regions need circuit riders to support local implementation. A hazard mitigation planner also needs to be on each regional planning agency. GIS work should be regionalized as well.
There are many other barriers to hazard mitigation including lack of hazard-related by-laws, variances that are granted too frequently, grandfathering, and reliance on unrelated regulations such as Title V. The Town of Chatham has very good flood-plain by-laws that prohibit new development and expansion of building footprints. Science is not getting incorporated into most local regulations. The building code does not address sea-level rise and flood maps are outdated. In addition, there is a lack of involvement by private property owners and an obvious disconnect between year-round and summer residents.