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Local impacts of sea level rise and state and regional guidance on adaptation planning

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Julia Knisel

Coastal Resiliency Specialist

Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management


Developed coastal floodplains serve as the basis for many communities’ economic livelihoods.  These dynamic areas provide extensive recreational opportunities and significant environmental services, including providing habitat for many species and protecting inland areas from flooding.  Accelerated sea level rise will exacerbate current impacts to development and natural systems from erosion and flooding.  Future impacts could include: loss of life; extensive property damage; destruction of public infrastructure; negative environmental impacts associated with the release of sewage, oil, debris, and other contaminants; and the loss of commercial and marine-related businesses.  Adaptation to rising sea levels and shifting or drowning shorelines begins with incorporating local climate change projections into existing strategic, management, and fiscal plans.  Building climate change strategies into land use plans, regulatory processes, and capital investments will result in more effective state and local management today.  Additional technical and financial support is required to make and implement more difficult long-term decisions.  By filling key science and technology gaps—such as improved mapping of high erosion areas and storm surge zones—the Commonwealth will better understand the risks and vulnerabilities associated with sea level rise, and therefore, can increase its ability to provide strategies for cities and towns.

Last updated: September 9, 2009

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