Coastal Shoreline and Floodplain Management
Situated at the edge of where the last major glacier covered parts of North America, the Massachusetts shoreline has an extremely varied orientation, as well as diverse and spectacular geologic landforms. The vulnerability of the coastline to the chronic forces of regular storm activity and to the catastrophic forces of northeasters and hurricanes is a continual concern to those who live, work, and manage the coast. The risk of damage from winds, waves, storm surge, and flooding continues to rise as the level of coastal development increases. The need to make better decisions about where to build and what to do to protect existing development has become more critical. CZM works to protect lives and property, to preserve the beneficial functions of coastal resource areas, and to ensure recreational access to this magnificent shoreline. The priorities of the Coastal Hazard Program are to develop state policy, provide technical assistance, and generate and distribute tools, maps and other data about the geologic features and processes which characterize coastal hazards within the Massachusetts coastal zone.
CZM Coastal Shoreline and Floodplain Management Initiatives
- StormSmart Coasts - Designed to help people working in coastal communities address the challenges arising from storms, floods, sea level rise, and climate change, the StormSmart Coasts program provides a menu of options for successful coastal floodplain management. The StormSmart Coasts website includes regulatory tools, case studies, planning strategies, and other technical assistance materials. CZM’s StormSmart Coasts Program implements the Coastal Hazards Commission recommendation of establishing a storm-resilient communities program to provide case studies for effective coastal smart growth planning and implementation. This national model helps translate often overwhelming technical materials into user-friendly information for local planning efforts.
- Coastal Landscaping - Landscaping with native plants can help prevent storm damage and erosion, provide wildlife habitat, and reduce coastal water pollution—all while improving a property's visual appeal and natural character. CZM's Coastal Landscaping website presents detailed information on the benefits of these landscaping techniques, step-by-step instructions on landscaping coastal areas, plant lists and photos, sample landscape plans, permitting information, and more.
- The Massachusetts Coastal Hazards Commission - charged with reviewing existing coastal hazards practices and policies, identifying data and information gaps, and drafting recommendations for administrative, regulatory, and statutory changes to improve coastal hazards management coastwide.
- Historic Shoreline Change Project - a key tool in examining potential coastal hazards. This project is aimed at measuring and estimating the changes in the Commonwealth's coastline as a result of natural erosion and accretion (deposition), as well as relative sea level rise.
- South Shore Coastal Hazards Characterization Atlas - intended to assist local reviewers with the identification of technical information necessary to evaluate individual projects and implement sound coastal hazard mitigation strategies for the ocean-facing shores from Hull down to the Cape Cod Canal (and will expand to additional regions in the future).
- Barrier Beach Management - to balance competing interests on the hundreds of barrier beaches that are part of the Massachusetts coastline. CZM provides inventory maps, guidelines for management, as well as technical assistance to communities in the preparation and implementation of site-specific barrier beach management plans.
A workbook entitled, Applying the Massachusetts Coastal Wetlands Regulations: A Practical Guide for Conservation Commissions to Protect the Storm Damage and Flood Control Functions of Coastal Resource Areas, is being developed to provide Conservation Commissions with an overview of how to evaluate proposed projects in coastal resource areas. Along with practical advice on how to obtain and assess the information needed to evaluate these projects, the guide will explain how Commissions should utilize tools, data, and information to ensure that the storm damage and flood control functions of the coastal resource areas are protected.
To discuss CZM technical assistance options, please contact your regional coordinator.