Focus Areas

CAW focuses on meeting specific community needs, as identified and defined by the community. As a result, CAW’s work varies from project to project. Over the years, several key focus areas have emerged, and CAW continues to work closely with community members on each of these and other emerging focus areas.

Community Outreach

Preparing for Climate Change and Climate in the Classroom are two of several community outreach programs CAW members coordinate to help educate and engage municipal boards, staff, and residents in identifying priorities and developing strategies for climate adaptation. “Preparing for Climate Change really helped our community get more engaged in thinking about climate adaptation strategies,” said Kim Reed, Town of Rye Planning and Zoning Administrator. Art Reed, Police Chief and Deputy Emergency Manager in Newfields, credited the program with building the support he needed to get a discounted generator program started in town to help residents prepare for storm-related outages. As part of ongoing efforts to reach new audiences CAW members developed a program, Climate in the Classroom, focused on educating middle school students about climate change and providing opportunities for them to bring that information back to their parents. Students learn about the difference between weather and climate, the effect of human activities on the earth’s climate, and ways to take action. The program culminates in a community event where students present what they learned to an audience of family members and municipal board members and staff. Read the Fosters and Sea Grant articles about Climate in the Classroom with Oyster River Middle School students in 2016.

Oyster River Middle School students share their research about climate change with their parents and teachers.

Oyster River Middle School students share their research about climate change with their parents and teachers.

Municipal planning

Integrating climate change into your existing planning and zoning is the way to go! The Rockingham and Strafford Regional Planning Commissions are CAW partners and have assisted many coastal communities to understand their vulnerabilities by developing detailed maps, assisting with planning efforts, and suggesting improvements to regulations. CAW members have helped communities develop adaptation chapters for their Hazard Mitigation Plans, Master Plans, and capital improvement planning efforts. Municipal planning starts with communities.

Rye residents meet to discuss preliminary sea-level rise scenario maps and identify community vulnerabilities. Photo by Rebecca Zeiber.

Rye residents meet to discuss preliminary sea-level rise scenario maps and identify community vulnerabilities. Photo by Rebecca Zeiber.

Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission

CAW members played an important role in the development of the NH Coastal Risk and Hazard Commission’s (CRHC) final report and are committed to supporting municipal implementation of the CRHC recommendations over the course of the next several years.

Established in 2013, the CRHC was legislatively mandated to “recommend legislation, rules, and other actions to prepare for projected sea-level rise and other coastal and coastal watershed hazards…and the risks such hazards pose to municipalities and state assets in New Hampshire.” Comprised of 37 representatives from NH’s State Legislature, state agencies, 17 Atlantic Coast and Great Bay municipalities, regional planning commissions, academia, and the private sector, the bi-partisan Commission unanimously adopted its final report and recommendations in November 2016. The report entitled, Preparing New Hampshire for Projected Storm Surge, Sea-Level Rise, and Extreme Precipitation, summarizes NH’s vulnerabilities to projected coastal flood hazards and puts forth essential, science-based guidance for the State and 17 coastal zone municipalities to minimize flood risk and enhance resilience. Broadly, the Commission’s 35 recommendations and associated actions focus on improving science-based understanding of current and future coastal flood risks, completing detailed assessments of coastal vulnerabilities, and implementing actions that protect and adapt NH’s coastal economy, built structures and facilities, natural resources, and recreational, cultural, and historical resources.

Living shorelines

CAW is working with partner organizations and communities to advance resilient shoreline management strategies that better protect communities and their resources from erosion and flooding associated with coastal storms and sea-level rise. New Hampshire’s tidal shoreline provides an important connection between our communities and the natural environment, valuable economic and recreational opportunities, and our history. Living shoreline projects are emerging as a resilient approach for protecting shorelines. In contrast to hardened shoreline protection such as a rip rap walls, seawalls, or revetments, a living shoreline approach mimics the environment, using primarily natural materials to stabilize an eroding shoreline, provide a storm surge barrier, or expand flood storage capacity. Projects vary in type, size, and structure, however some examples include salt marsh grading and plantings, sand dune creation or bluff stabilization with plantings. Depending on the site characteristics, a living shoreline project may need to incorporate “hybrid” structural elements in combination with natural materials, such as rock sills for marsh toe stabilization where the wave energy is moderate or high. When compared to hard structure alternatives, a well-designed living shoreline can provide improved shoreline protection, better adapt to rising sea levels, require lower repair costs, and preserve higher quality habitat for fish and other species.

CAW has published stories, held workshops, and partnered on projects related to resilient shoreline management. At Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, New Hampshire, municipal staff and board members are working with CAW partners to address severe, ongoing erosion of their shoreline with a living shoreline marsh project.

CAW member Kirsten photographs the eroding shoreline at Wagon Hill Farm on Durham Day. Photo by Todd Selig.

CAW member Kirsten photographs the eroding shoreline at Wagon Hill Farm on Durham Day. Photo by Todd Selig.

Business Continuity

CAW members have engaged with NH business leaders to investigate how businesses can plan and prepare for major coastal storm impacts, such as those that occurred during Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy, in order to ensure the vibrant coastal economy of NH is resilient. In partnership with the Red Cross, CAW members have held workshops and discussions with businesses around the Seacoast on the topic of business continuity planning. CAW continues to be interested in how various industries think ahead and build resilience to regular climate-related disruptions such as power outages and flood damage in their own businesses or along their supply chains. As one example, CAW members assisted with the Weathering Change in New Hampshire initiative. CAW will continue to work with interested industry leaders and local businesses as they share their stories and develop continuity plans.