Coast Smart Program Cuts Hazard Risks for Communities

The Takeaway: Over $1.6 million benefits 23 coastal communities. Many projects are using natural infrastructure to make communities more resilient.

Many Chesapeake Bay communities are barely seven feet above sea level, and a heavy rainstorm is enough to inundate the roads. Residents have seen severe weather events become more frequent, but have lacked the resources to make their communities more resilient. To answer this need, since 2009 the Coast Smart Communities program has delivered mapping data, risk assessments, technical know-how, and trainings via grant assistance to coastal Maryland communities.

Over $1.6 million in Coast Smart Communities grants have been awarded to 23 of Maryland’s coastal counties. Funds have helped officials strengthen local flood mitigation plans, partly through increased green infrastructure techniques that restore floodplains and build up natural buffers fortifying beaches, marshes, and other vulnerable places.

Coast Smart Communities has supported the following local projects:

  • Talbot County's adoption of new floodplain regulations, floodplain maps, and application to the Community Rating System for lower flood insurance rates
  • Queen Anne County's adoption of a new floodplain ordinance and strategies to address properties with repeat hazard-related losses
  • Baltimore City’s integration of climate change into its All-Hazard Mitigation Plan and Climate Adaptation Plan
  • Calvert County’s special area flood management plan, amended zoning ordinances, shoreline development and protection plan, and application to the Community Rating System

In 2016, the Coast Smart Council’s annual report noted that many Maryland departments have incorporated its guidelines:

  • The council’s resilience criteria now appear in architecture, engineering, construction, and design manuals for the state’s general services, environment, and budget and management departments.
  • The Maryland Emergency Management Agency has updated and improved its hazard mitigation plans.
  • The State Highway Administration incorporated sea level change data and projections through 2100 to target critical infrastructure and select risk-reduction projects.
  • The Maryland Department of Natural Resources joined with several partners to identify forests, wetlands, and other habitats that protect vulnerable communities, and with this information they are targeting future natural infrastructure projects to lessen risks.

The need is urgent. A 2017 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that Maryland’s 3,100 miles of tidal shore along Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are especially vulnerable to flood-related impacts. Of 167 communities in 13 states that will experience chronic inundation by 2035, 22 are in Maryland, most of them on the Eastern Shore, which faces both rising sea levels and sinking land.

The Coast Smart Communities grant program receives NOAA funds administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake and Coastal Service as a part of the National Coastal Zone Management Program. The Maryland Coast Smart Council is a separate, multi-sector group approved by the Maryland General Assembly. (2018)

Partners: Chesapeake Bay Trust, Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake and Coastal Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, NOAA, Maryland Coast Smart Council, University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension