Originally called StormSmart Coasts, the StormSmart Communities program was developed by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) to help local officials prepare for and protect their communities from coastal storms and flooding—both now and under higher sea levels. For details on the origins of the program, see About StormSmart Communities.
The StormSmart Communities website, which was revised in May of 2013, includes the following information:
As part of the StormSmart Communities program, CZM has produced the following coastal floodplain management publications:
- StormSmart Coasts: Who to Contact and What to Do Before Building or Rebuilding - This 2014 fact sheet for property owners gives information on the permitting process for building and rebuilding projects on the Massachusetts coast, including all new buildings, repair of storm-damaged properties, additions, septic systems, seawalls, decks, and a variety of others. It provides information for coastal property owners on applicable regulations and agency contacts, an overview of the most common permits needed, and recommendations for StormSmart building techniques to better protect coastal property.
- Interpreting Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Maps and Studies in the Coastal Zone - Updated in 2017, this publication developed by CZM in cooperation with the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Flood Hazard Management Program, provides guidance on how to use Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Maps and Studies to better understand the potential effects of flooding on buildings, properties, and the underlying natural resource areas. This information can be used by homeowners and consultants to ensure that the safest possible coastal projects are designed, as well as by public officials to successfully evaluate projects to ensure they are designed to minimize storm damage, protect public safety, and reduce the financial burden on individuals and municipalities from losses due to coastal storms.
- Applying the Massachusetts Coastal Wetlands Regulations file size 11MB - Published by CZM and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in August 2017, this guidance document was developed to help Conservation Commissions evaluate projects proposed in coastal resource areas for their potential to impact the storm damage prevention and flood control interests of the Wetlands Protection Act. It gives Commissions tools, data, and information to delineate the coastal resource areas, determine resource area functions, assess potential project impacts, and evaluate whether the project meets or can be conditioned to meet the performance standards and includes step-by-step instructions, checklists, and example scenarios.
- StormSmart Coasts Fact Sheet 1: Introduction to No Adverse Impact (NAI) Land Management in the Coastal Zone file size 1MB - Describes the No Adverse Impact (NAI) approach to coastal land management, which is based on a set of "do no harm" principles that communities can use when planning, designing, and evaluating public and private projects.
- StormSmart Coasts Fact Sheet 2: No Adverse Impact and the Legal Framework of Coastal Management - Discusses how the NAI approach can help communities protect people and property while reducing legal challenges to floodplain management practices.
- StormSmart Coasts Fact Sheet 3: Case Study - A Cape Cod Community Prevents New Residences in Floodplains file size 1MB - Summarizes Chatham’s zoning bylaw that designates “conservancy districts” in the coastal floodplain and specifies prohibited uses (such as construction of residences), permitted uses (such as installation of utilities), and special uses requiring permits (such as construction of piers).
- StormSmart Coasts Fact Sheet 4: Case Study - Massachusetts Communities Reduce Storm Risk in Developed Areas file size 1MB - Summarizes Quincy’s efforts to use Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant money to help property owners elevate either utilities or homes above flood elevations and describes Scituate’s program that uses FEMA funding to help homeowners pay part of the costs of building elevation projects.
- StormSmart Coasts Fact Sheet 5: Raise Your Home, Lower Your Monthly Payments: Protect Buildings and Reduce Monthly Expenses with Freeboard - Discusses the safety and financial benefits of freeboard, which is elevating a building above predicted flood elevations.
- StormSmart Coasts Fact Sheet 6: Landscaping to Protect Your Coastal Property from Storm Damage and Flooding - Describes landscaping techniques that stabilize coastal banks and dunes and gives information on the benefits of coast-friendly landscaping.
- Coastal Landscaping website - Provides information on storm-damage prevention and other benefits of appropriate landscaping approaches, along with detailed information on how to effectively landscape coastal banks, beaches, and dunes.
From 2009-2011, CZM conducted five pilot projects to implement StormSmart techniques. The goal was to provide "direct in-community" technical assistance to help local officials effectively adopt these strategies and tools and to develop models that could be used by other communities. The following seven communities participated in these pilot projects:
- Boston - Coastal Inundation Mapping and Regulatory Review
- Hull - Freeboard Incentive and Storm Surge Visualization
- Duxbury, Kingston, and Plymouth - Coastal Hazards Awareness
- Falmouth - Natural Hazards Planning
- Oak Bluffs - Coastal Floodplain Zoning Bylaw and Regulations
Funding sources are available for community projects that focus on reducing risk to life and property. See StormSmart Communities - Funding Sources for details.
The following StormSmart Communities materials are frequently accessed from the CZM website:
- Using Freeboard to Elevate Structures above Predicted Floodwaters - Freeboard is elevating a building's lowest floor above predicted flood elevations by a small additional height (generally 1-3 feet above National Flood Insurance Program minimum height requirements).
- Tools to Assist in Interpreting Flood Insurance Rate Maps and Flood Insurance Study Reports - This page provides resources to help correctly interpret FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Studies.
- Hazard Identification and Mapping - Resources for identifying the potential for erosion and flooding impacts, as well as mapping information, are provided on this page.
- Mitigation and Shore Protection - Hazard mitigation activities focus on breaking the cycle of disaster (damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage); protect citizens; and reduce or eliminate damage to public and private property.
The early success of StormSmart Coasts in Massachusetts quickly led to the development of a national network. The StormSmart Coasts National Network website provides local decision makers with information on erosion, flooding, storms, and sea level rise and helps them connect and collaborate.