Maryland Issues New Guidelines for State Construction in Areas Vulnerable to Coastal Flooding and Sea Level Rise
Maryland’s Climate Change and CoastSmart Construction Working Group has issued its Final Report, intended to guide what, where and how the State builds in areas vulnerable to coastal flooding and future sea level rise. The report recommends specific siting and design guidelines for State construction projects to protect against the impacts of climate change.
“As storms such as Hurricane Sandy have shown, we must commit our resources and expertise to create a ready and resilient Maryland, taking the necessary steps to adapt to rising seas and unpredictable weather,” said Governor Martin O’Malley, who is currently serving on President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. “By studying and planning for storms and climate change, we can ensure that Maryland’s land and infrastructure ─ and most importantly ─ its citizens, are safe and prepared.”
The report ─ issued in response to directives outlined in Governor O’Malley’s 2012 Climate Change and Coast Smart Construction Executive Order ─ recommends that the State employ CoastSmart practices to State structures during construction or rehabilitation.
These practices include:
- increasing the elevation requirements for State buildings, and critical and essential facilities, such as 911 centers and fire stations;
- increasing the setback requirements for State structures to avoid areas likely to be impacted by sea level rise within the next 50 years; and
- protecting natural storm surge buffers on construction sites.
“Maryland is one of the most vulnerable states in the country to sea level rise due to our low-lying topography and proximity to the coast,” said Zoë Johnson, DNR’s program manager for Climate Change Policy. “Additionally, Maryland has approximately 1,000 State-owned facilities within the mapped 100-year flood zone, including more than 450 facilities within areas likely to be impacted by sea level rise over the next century. This represents billions of dollars in public and private investments at risk to future damage from flooding and stronger coastal storms.”
The report recommends that CoastSmart practices also be applied to non-state buildings and infrastructure projects if partially or fully funded by the State, as well as local government and private investor projects.
“Now, more than ever, building resistance to future sea level rise and climate change is an important consideration for construction along the coast,” said DNR Secretary Joseph P. Gill. “The construction guidelines outlined in the report will increase the resilience of our public buildings and infrastructure investments to future weather events.”
To assist local governments, the CoastSmart Communities program provides on-the-ground sea level rise planning expertise, training, and technical mapping tools. Launched by Governor O’Malley in April 2009 and administered by DNR, the program has awarded more than a half-million dollars to coastal communities to help prepare for the anticipated impacts of climate change. In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State provides grants ranging from $10,000 to $75,000 to coastal communities to support planning efforts. For more information on the CoastSmart program or to submit a funding request, visit dnr.maryland.gov/CoastSmart.
To codify provisions of Governor O’Malley’s Climate Change and Coast Smart Construction Executive Order, and implement key recommendations of the Working Group, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources introduced legislation, the Climate Risk Reduction Act (House Bill 615) in the Maryland General Assembly this week. If passed, the Act would require the State to consider the risk of coastal flooding and sea level rise in funding decisions for new capital projects and create a CoastSmart Council to oversee development and implementation of specific siting and design criteria.
To download the full report, State of Maryland Climate Change and Coast Smart Construction Infrastructure Siting and Design Guidelines, visit dnr.maryland.gov/climatechange. For more information on Maryland’s sea level rise and climate change preparedness efforts, visit climatechange.maryland.gov.