For Immediate Release - July 06, 2009

Patrick Administration Helps Coastal Communities Prepare for Hurricanes, Erosion and Climate Change Impacts through StormSmart Coasts

BOSTON - With hurricane season underway, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is reminding people about the potential devastating impact of coastal storms and, through its StormSmart Coasts program, helping communities prepare for future hurricane seasons, and the erosion and storm damage issues that could occur as a result of climate change.

"It is essential that citizens and emergency managers prepare for this hurricane season," said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Ian Bowles, whose office includes CZM. "Climate change will result in an increase in the intensity and frequency of storms in the future, in addition to sea level rise, so planning today is critical to protect citizens, local and regional businesses and coastal habitats tomorrow."

Last fall 14 coastal communities applied to serve as pilot communities for StormSmart Coasts. CZM selected Boston, Hull, Kingston, Duxbury, Plymouth, Falmouth and Oak Bluffs to work with StormSmart Coasts to reduce the public safety, economic recreation, and natural resource impacts of storms. These pilot communities are applying planning, regulatory, and mapping tools of their choice from a menu offered by CZM to prepare for this hurricane season and beyond.

From 2006 to 2008, CZM designed the StormSmart Coasts program to assist local officials in addressing the expected impacts of storms, floods, sea level rise and climate change in ways that are effective, fair and legally defensible. In January 2009, CZM started working with pilot communities to implement StormSmart tools and strategies developed by a team of state, local and national experts to protect vulnerable shorelines and floodplains.

"Dealing with these issues is a national priority keenly felt in Massachusetts, where costly storm damage frequently occurs along our heavily developed shoreline," said CZM Director Deerin Babb-Brott. "StormSmart Coasts pilot projects are providing real-world models, and successfully implementing a wide range of technical and outreach tools and techniques."

CZM and dozens of local officials from Duxbury, Plymouth, and Kingston met recently to discuss strategies for protecting the 60 miles of coastline these towns share. One plan is to launch an awareness campaign for residents to boost local support of land use planning efforts.

In the other coastal pilot communities, CZM and local officials are examining the most vulnerable areas at risk for storm damage, and making changes that will reduce the loss of life, strain on municipal budgets, damage to public/private infrastructure, and threat to natural resources. Oak Bluffs officials are reviewing existing bylaws to make sure current permitting regulations do not inhibit local officials from ensuring that valued beaches are protected and citizens are safe from harm.

CZM and Falmouth are developing an enhanced "Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan" to enable the town to better address current and future risks from storms and sea level rise. As a bonus, local adoption and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approval of this plan will also allow Falmouth to be eligible for FEMA disaster assistance and hazard mitigation grants.

Hurricane Bob, which hit Cape Cod in 1991, is a reminder of the devastating damage costal storms can cause. Although Bob was a relatively minor hurricane, it killed 18 people and was the 19th costliest United States mainland hurricane to date, with total damage estimated at $1.5 billion, according to the National Hurricane Center. In 2005, damage from Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. was estimated to be near $81 billion - the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Coastal storm damage costs the U.S. $6 billion a year, four times as much as it did in the early 1900s. In the past century, per capita damages increased more than 2.5 times in real dollar terms.

For more information about the StormSmart program, visit www.mass.gov/czm/stormsmart.

The Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is the agency within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs charged with protecting Massachusetts' approximately 1,500-mile coast. Through educational and regulatory programs, CZM seeks to balance human uses of the coastal zone with the need to protect fragile marine resources. The agency's work includes helping coastal communities anticipate and plan for sea level rise and other effects of climate change, working with cities and towns and the federal government to develop boat sewage no-discharge areas, and partnering with communities and other organizations to restore coastal and aquatic habitats.