EPA Selects N.H., Mass., Estuaries for Study

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected two New England coastal estuaries, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts, to be case studies for local action to protect sensitive coastal ecosystems and economies from the potential effects of climate change, according to a June 19 press release.

The case studies are the New Hampshire Estuaries Project and the Massachusetts Bays Program, both of which are part of the National Estuary Program. They are two of six case studies selected under the first step in the agency's new "Climate Ready Estuaries" effort to build local ability to adapt to climate change.

"New Englanders are typically on the cutting-edge of environmental protection, so we are excited that EPA's Climate Ready Estuaries program will work with two local coastal areas to understand and learn how to adapt to climate change," said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "Our program's goal is to build capacity for local decision makers and resource managers to help take pro-active, practical steps for bays at risk."

The two estuary programs will receive technical assistance to assess and reduce their vulnerability to climate change. The programs will apply analyses and tools to help make decisions to protect communities and build knowledge to help other communities adapt to a changing climate. EPA will designate communities with plans approved by local stakeholders as "Climate Ready Estuaries."

The Massachusetts Bays Program will update its management plan to reflect climate change concerns and work more closely with the recently unveiled "Storm Smart Coasts Initiative" developed by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management to assist local officials with preparation for storm damage impacts, sea level rise, and climate change.

The New Hampshire Estuaries Project will initiate a pilot project in the Oyster River coastal watershed to identify road culverts that are subject to failure during the increasingly extreme storm events projected for New England by climate change scientists. The project team will assess culverts throughout the watershed, use the geographic information system to model changes in stormwater runoff to the watershed due to climate change, and develop recommendations for culvert improvements based on risk analysis and cost estimates.

Under the Climate Ready Estuaries framework, EPA will use the 28 National Estuary Programs, Web-based resources, and other means identified through the initial pilots to support local efforts in all of the nation's coastal communities to effectively plan and adapt to climate change.

Besides the two New England projects, the other four pilots are the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds National Estuary Program in North Carolina, Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program in Florida, and San Francisco Estuary Project.

The Climate Ready Estuaries program is one of more than 40 specific actions to respond to the water-related impacts of climate change that are described in a draft strategy developed by EPA's National Water program. The draft strategy is designed to help water resource managers adapt their programs to a changing climate.

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