- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) - Flooding is already a part of life for beach residents like Debra Bourbeau, but a new study says sea level rise will increase the number of homes at risk of flooding in their community and others in the Seacoast.

Bourbeau and her neighbors on Hobson Avenue, a Hampton Beach road that overlooks the marsh, say they have lost thousands of dollars to flooding, from damaged home foundations to cars totaled by water several feet high in their streets and driveways.

Bourbeau suspects the study from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which used data from Zillow to show approximately 2,000 New Hampshire properties could face chronic flooding in 2045, is likely accurate having seen flooding become more frequent in recent years on her street. She said high tides are causing damage and leaving trash, animal waste and dead birds on her lawn more frequently now than when she moved to the beach eight years ago.

“When you wake up in the middle of the night and you have oceanfront property, what does that mean?” Bourbeau said. “When the tide is high, where do you park your car? Did you tie down your trash cans? Did you put away anything that could float away?”

The UCS released its national study released last week, which included a map on its website to show each coastal community and the projected number of homes expected to face chronic flooding in the next 82 years. UCS defined chronic flooding to be 26 flooding events per year. The map shows projections under two scenarios, one assuming a high rate of sea level rise caused by a continued rise in global carbon emissions and an increasing loss of land ice, the other assuming carbon emissions have declined.



Hampton is projected to have 1,498 homes at risk of becoming chronically inundated with flooding by 2045 if current emissions do not decline, 3,428 in 2100. That number makes up 18 percent of the community’s homes, according to the study. Rye would have 198 at risk, the study states. Seabrook would have 83, Portsmouth 34.

Other communities have fewer homes projected to be at risk than those communities, but the study shows those cities and towns also will see their flooding problems continue to grow over the next century. Portsmouth would see its number of homes at risk jump to 256 by 2100.

In the scenario where carbon emissions are reduced, the map displays projections for the years 2035 and 2100. Hampton would have 734 homes at risk by 2035 in that scenario, 2,386 by 2100. Portsmouth would have seven homes at risk in 2035 and 87 in 2100.

Hampton Town Planner Jason Bachand said Hampton may have more properties at risk than the rest of the Seacoast partly because of the marsh to the west of Hampton Beach. Officials say the marsh is where most of the flooding in Hampton comes from, not the ocean. He also said many properties have been developed in the last several decades in the town’s flood plain.

Flooding has become a strain on beach residents, many of whom the town allows to park in municipal lots during high tides 10 feet or higher to protect their cars and allow them to drive to work.

Bill and Pauline Cross, who moved to their Hobson Avenue home in 1964, said there were only one or two major flooding events a year when they first arrived, but they have seen that number increase over the years. Bill cited this past winter when a barrage of storms brought flooding several days a week for about a three-week period.

He said many beach residents want to keep their properties for generations to come, but his wife said they probably would not move to Hampton today considering the flooding.

Erika Spanger-Siegfried, the UCS’s lead climate analyst, said the study is meant to encourage communities to become proactive in combating future flooding, and many Seacoast municipalities are already doing that. Bachand said Hampton modified its flood plain management ordinance last year to require developers to build one foot above the base flood elevation.

Portsmouth Environmental Planner Peter Britz said the city is wrapping up a study this year that will show ways for Portsmouth to prepare for a storm event like Hurricane Sandy. The study was paid for through pre-disaster mitigation funds dispersed in the wake of that 2012 storm, according to Britz.

Britz said the city should be able to prepare for increased flooding in vulnerable sections like Strawbery Banke in the South End in years to come, noting flooding in New Hampshire has not worsened like it has in other areas down south.

“We’re lucky Portsmouth isn’t seeing big impacts like some of the cities down south like in Florida, Maryland and in Virginia,” Britz said. “It’s really keeping ahead of it. The more you do now, the cheaper it is later.”

Bourbeau said she wants her beach house to be enjoyed by her family for years to come, and while flooding gives her concern, she is hopeful Seacoast communities will be able to address flooding now so residents are not overwhelmed by high tides in coming years. She was happy to see voters pass a $100,000 study in March that would examine ways to address flooding in several parts of the beach.

“I think now we’re just becoming smarter, and we’re starting to understand and look at different ways we can protect our properties and still enjoy our beaches for many more generations to come,” Bourbeau said.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2MYuyzW

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Information from: Portsmouth Herald, http://www.seacoastonline.com

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