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NH News

Ten-foot tides paint a picture of Hampton’s climate future

During a ten-foot-high tide, some of the low-lying streets in the town of Hampton are flooded.

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Water flows from the salt marsh on the west side of town up to the facades of houses, lapping against cars and recycling bins. It’s difficult to walk along the streets without getting your ankles wet, unless you have knee-high rain boots.

This past Thursday through Monday, high tide predictions in Hampton reached above 10 feet. State officials said that flooding could paint a picture of daily life as the climate changes and sea levels rise.

Currently, tides in Hampton reach above ten feet about 30% to 40% of the year, says Tiffany Chin, an environmental scientist with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services who has been collecting data from a tide gauge in the town.

But with a predicted two-foot rise in sea level, which New Hampshire could experience by 2050, she says Hampton could see ten-foot-high tides 95% of the time — nearly every day.

“People are going to need to move their cars all the time, so that they don’t get flooded in," Chin said. "Many homes and buildings might become inaccessible for periods of the day,” she added.

Hampton’s town planner, Jason Bachand, says the town has taken steps to address the projected impact of sea-level rise, like including coastal resilience in their master plan. The town will continue to work on coastal resilience as seas rise.

“How do you adapt those existing buildings? For example, do you raise them, elevate them using what we call freeboard? Do they look to maybe go to other locations?” Bachand said. “It really is a lot of the planning efforts that we’re doing.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recently passed by Congress includes $47 billion for climate resilience efforts that could help communities like Hampton prepare for the effects of flooding.

The funding marks the largest amount of money spent by the United States on preparations to adapt to climate change. A larger bill, the center of which has become $555 billion to fight climate change, is still stuck in the House of Representatives.

Senator Maggie Hassan (D) says she helped to secure investments for coastal resilience, such as $429 million for a program to improve the resilience of coastal communities by restoring natural ecosystems through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Coastal Resiliency Fund. Another $491 million would go to NOAA’s Community-Based Restoration Project.

Jennifer Hale, Hampton’s director of public works, says that federal funding will be important for the town’s coastal resilience planning.

“The scale of the need is way beyond what our budgets can provide,” she said.

Hale says projects to build a new drainage system for parts of the town, remediate damage to the salt marsh that helps mitigate flooding, and upgrade a wastewater facility are all opportunities for federal funding to help the town brace for the impacts of climate change.