Coastal hazards associated with storm surge, sea-level rise, and extreme precipitation events can be devastating to human health and safety, public and private structures and facilities, and the economies of coastal communities. Coastal New Hampshire was fortunate to experience minimal damage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Nevertheless, the impacts of these storms on neighboring states and the more extreme local impacts from storms such as the Mother’s Day storm of 2006, the Patriots’ Day storm of 2007, and Winter Storm Nemo in 2013 have reinforced our knowledge that strong storm systems are capable of causing immense damage in areas on or near the coast. New Hampshire’s coastal exposure to current and future flood risks is significant. As of 2016, the state’s 17 coastal zone municipalities are home to approximately 11 percent of the state population, host over 100,000 jobs, and generated a 2014 Gross Regional Product of approximately $11 billion.
Where and how we build and rebuild as the coastal population and economy continue to grow have critical implications for how coastal New Hampshire will withstand projected coastal hazards. Should we choose to build using the same strategies and techniques as we have in the past, we will exacerbate our exposure to these hazards by placing structures, facilities, and people directly at risk. Alternatively, if we incorporate projected flood risks into our planning, design, construction, and conservation practices today, we will greatly reduce exposure to flood hazards, resulting in saved lives and property and lower response and recovery costs.
Recognizing the need to prepare for existing and projected coastal flood hazards, in July 2013 the State Legislature enacted Senate Bill 163, introduced by Senator David Watters (District 4), which established the New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission to “recommend legislation, rules, and other actions to prepare for projected sea-level rise and other coastal and coastal watershed hazards such as storms, increased river flooding, and stormwater runoff, and the risks such hazards pose to municipalities and the state assets in New Hampshire.” In response to this legislative mandate, the Commission puts forward a final report and set of recommendations for state legislators, state agencies, and coastal municipalities to help these audiences better prepare for and minimize coastal risks and hazards. The report presents a summary of the best available science and vulnerability information followed by recommendations for action.
New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission, "Preparing New Hampshire for Projected Storm Surge, Sea-Level Rise, and Extreme Precipitation: Final Report and Recommendations" (2016). PREP Publications. 387.