Talbot partnering, planning to rise above sinking feeling
— Planning ahead for sea level rise and sinking terrain in equal measures, Brian Ambrette, coastal resilience manager for the Eastern Shore Land Conser vancy, updated the Talbot County Council on Sept. 26 on the work of the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership.
“We’re not here to present a sky-is-falling scenario,” Ambrette said. “But we’re assisting in responsible planning for the future and present weather conditions.”
The partnership, a work group that includes representatives of the five Mid-Shore counties and Cecil County, “helps communities understand, plan for and reduce the costs of the impacts from sea level rise, extreme heat, extreme rain and snow storms,” Ambrette said.
Talbot County’s ESCAP representatives are Jim Bass, emergency management coordinator, and Martin Sokolich, long range planner.
State agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations also are members of the partnership.
ESLC plays a facilitative role, organizing and hosting meetings, coordinating priorities among communities and pursuing grant funding for projects communities select, Ambrette said.
Talbot County completed a hazard mitgation and community resilience plan earlier this year, Ambrette said.
“The plan is currently at the towns for their adoption,” Bass said in an email following the meeting. “After receiving municipal adoption it will go to the County Council.”
Talbot County has an existing hazard mitigation plan adopted in 2011.
One of the goals of ESCAP is to help counties achieve the recommendations in the plan. Ambrette asked the council to continue supporting Bass and Sokolich’s participation in the partnership, and continue providing letters of support for grant applications to meet recommended priorities.
Ambrette asked the council to allow ESLC to return in another year with a proposal to sustain a long-term commitment to the partnership.
Ambrette outlined three key impacts for which the Eastern Shore should anticipate and prepare.
The first impact is a 2-foot sea level rise anticipated in the Chesapeake Bay region by 2050, Ambrette said.
“Put in perspective for the county, that represents 1.7 percent of land area that would be facing permanent inundation. That sounds small, but it does account for almost $240 million in property value in the county,” he said.
Summer months becoming warmer and rain storms becoming more intense and frequent are the other two impacts affecting the Chesapeake Bay region.
Bass and Sokolich requested a report laying out the rationale for their participation in ESCAP. The report, completed earlier this summer, contains “two important points,” namely “priortizing local adaptation with a responsible and proactive approach” and recognizing the benefits of working with other jurisdictions,” Ambrette said. The report also “suggests the pathway forward for the region.”
Earlier in September, Ambrette met with emergency managers across the region and identified the priorities of their hazard mitigation plans.
“We’re now pursuing funding for projects that meet those priorities, hopefully with more cost-effective means and doing it across multiple jurisdictions,” Ambrette said.
“We’re also looking at cost-saving approaches for implementing FEMA’s community rating system, a program that provides discounts for residential and business flood insurance premiums in counties already enrolled in the program,” Ambrette said. “We’ve identified a number of strategies to increase the score in the rating system so that residents will realize discounts on their flood insurance premiums.”
“We believe that the partnership, working collaboratively, can bring the cost of participating in that program down,” Ambrette said.
On Oct. 5, the ESLC will host a work group session for elected leaders and their staff on the issue of chronic flooding and how it will affect communities over the next five to 25 years.
Responding to questions from council members, Ambrette said both sea level rise and sinking ground in equal measures are responsible for the 1-foot change in water levels in the Chesapeake Bay region during the past century.
Brian Ambrette, center, coastal resilience manager for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, presented information about the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership to the Talbot County Council on Sept. 26. Ambrette is flanked by Jim Bass, left, Talbot County emergency management coordinator, and Martin Sokolich, Talbot County long range planner.