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Second workshop on sea level rise scheduled in Danvers Thursday

Posted by Justin Rice  January 4, 2012 01:30 PM

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After launching this fall, momentum is building for a regional effort to combat rising sea levels on the North Shore.

Sam Cleaves, senior regional planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, who conducted a workshop on the rising sea levels in North Shore communities in October at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, said he expects about 30 or 50 people to attend the second workshop tomorrow morning back at the library.

“There is a lot of interest coalescing,” Cleaves said during a phone interview this morning. “I think we can put together some regional action based on the kind of work we’re seeing coming out of Maine. It’s in the early stages. It takes a lot of work but that’s where we are headed.”

Tomorrow’s climate adaptation workshop -- which will be from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. -- is part of the group' effort to adopt systematic regulations to address sea level rise in the region.  Studies have shown rising sea levels lead to land loss, more flooding and saltwater invading bodies of fresh water. At the October meeting, Knisel said sea levels have risen one foot in the last 100 years.

The workshop will feature four guest speakers who will discuss examples of regional approaches to addressing sea level rise issues along with new software that can be used to determine economic impacts of sea level rise.

The speakers will include Jonathan Lockman, the planning director of the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission and Dr. Sam Merrill, the director of the New England Environmental Finance Center in Portland. Julie Knisel of the state Energy and Environmental Affairs Office of Coastal Zone and Barry Keppard, a regional planner for MAPC will also present tomorrow.

While the October meeting came in the wake of heavy flooding on the North Shore, Cleaves said at the time that there is no direct correlation between rising sea levels and the type of rainstorm and flooding the North Shore saw this fall. But one member of the workshop noted that the severe rain was coupled with high tides, a perfect storm that is likely to occur more often in the future.  

Cleaves said he isn’t planning on conducting another workshop but plans are in the works to develop a working group that will meet regularly to tackle sea level rising issues on the North Shore.

“I won’t rule out another workshop, but I don’t have another one planned,” Cleaves said.

The meeting is free to the public and is being co-sponsored by the following groups: Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, MA Coastal Zone Management, Salem Sound Coastwatch, Eight Towns and a Bay and the Great Marsh Coalition.

For more information about the event, contact MAPC Senior Regional Planner Sam Cleaves at or 617-451-2770 x2013. For more information on MAPC and the North Shore Coalition, visit

The following are summaries of tomorrow’s presenter and their presentations:

Jonathan Lockman will describe the Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools planning project (CHRT) of the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission and the Maine Geological Survey, which is in its fifth year, as well as some implementation steps that are now beginning.  The purpose of the CHRT is to help the towns and cities in the highly developed south coast of Maine plan to adapt to sea level rise and higher storm surges.  The project has been funded by NOAA through the Maine Coastal Program, and has engaged the coastal communities south of Portland, from Scarborough to Kittery.  Growing out of the project, the four Saco Bay communities of Scarborough, Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Biddeford, have formed a regional Sea Level Adaptation Working Group, the "SLAWG," which has been meeting for a year and a half. SLAWG has completed a vulnerability assessment and work plan. The group is about to spearhead an effort to amend the floodplain management ordinances of each member community, to respond to sea level rise, by increasing the required clearance above the 100 year floodplain height, or "freeboard," from 1 foot to 3 feet.  In another outgrowth from the CHRT, the Ogunquit Sewer District has begun to seek funding to study ways to adapt its sewage treatment plant to sea level rise and storm surges.  A grant has been sought from the Gulf of Maine Council/Northeast Regional Ocean Council for this effort.

Sam Merrill will describe COAST (COastal Adaptation to Sea level rise Tool), developed at the New England Environmental Finance Center in partnership with the US EPA. COAST helps municipalities visualize costs and benefits of adaptation actions they might undertake in response to combined threats of sea level rise and storm surge. Using output from COAST, municipalities are able to host conversations about real estate, infrastructure, and other impacts of possible sea level rise and storm surge scenarios; tradeoffs of different adaptation actions they might undertake; and financial benefits of action vs. no-action scenarios. Structural and non-structural adaptation strategies will be illustrated, using results from current iterations of COAST in New England. Opportunities for working with the COAST team will be discussed.

 Julia Knisel- MA Coastal Zone Management , Coastal Resiliency Specialist
Julia will talk about the MA CZM Storm Smart Program and offer an over view of how it worked with Hull, MA to create an incentive program for property owners to increase freeboard in coastal floodplains when constructing or re-constructing their home or business.  See 

Barry Keppard, Regional Planner, MAPC
Barry is the MAPC South Shore Coalition Subregional Coordinator and has been the lead planner for the recently completed South Shore Coastal Hazards Adaptation Study.  Funded by  a District Local Technical Assistance Grant, the Scituate, Marshfield and Duxbury Coastal Hazards Adaptation Study assessed general changes in coastal hazard impacts that could occur due to climate change, primarily the impacts from sea level rise and changes in storm intensity and frequency. The project explored current and potential future coastal vulnerabilities, identified a range of possible adaptation options and provided information about resources that could support local actions and strategies. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) conducted the project in partnership with the Towns of Scituate, Marshfield and Duxbury and with support from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

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