Talbot part­ner­ing, plan­ning to rise above sink­ing feel­ing

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CON­NIE CON­NOLLY cconnolly@ches­pub.com

— 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.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

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.

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