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Hampton Beach Seeks Expert Input On Coastal Resilience Master Plan

Annie Ropeik - NHPR
Aerial support by Lighthawk
The back marsh of Hampton Beach encroaches on homes during a routine high tide in 2019.

Hampton Beach officials will hear from a range of climate change scientists at a symposium next week as part of their work on a coastal resilience piece of a new town master plan.

Heavier rain, more storms and higher tides are already causing more frequent low-level flooding on the streets of the oceanfront community. Roads were closed due to standing tidewater as recently as last week, in the wake of a nor’easter.

Scientists say it will get worse in the coming years. A 2019 state report estimated that sea levels off New Hampshire could rise a foot or more in the next thirty years, even with action on climate change.

"All of our coastal communities are sitting at the edge of what's going to happen ten years down the road, fifteen years down the road,” said Hampton Beach Area Commission chair Nancy Stiles in an interview.

Stiles, a former state senator, said upgrading Hampton Beach’s infrastructure to avoid heavy damage will be a big task – but there’s energy around getting started.

“That’s why we need some of the experts in here to say – what do we need to do, and how can we help protect the properties before these kinds of things happen?” she said.

Stiles hopes some data-driven changes to beach-area policies could protect homes and businesses, and keep people from moving away.

This story is part of By Degrees, NHPR's climate change reporting initiative. Take a quick survey to help shape future coverage.

The beach commission has convened a range of scientists, planners and state and local officials for an all-day virtual symposium Tuesday. Registration is free and required by the end of the day Friday.

Next, Stiles says they’ll pursue grants to help retool their part of the town’s master plan, with the hope of preventing disruption from climate change.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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