Continuing on the Path to Climate Resiliency

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Like much of the eastern seaboard, Maryland was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. Significant coastal flooding, power outages and snowfall were many of the woes faced by Marylanders.

Communities along the coast experienced significant flooding; many homes and businesses were seriously impacted. In fact, Maryland has seen more than one foot of sea level rise in the last 100 years due to land subsidence and sea level rise. Fortunately, Governor O’Malley and the state of Maryland have already begun to plan and prepare for this new normal.

In 2010, the state of Maryland released its “Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change”. This report demonstrates that Maryland has undertaken a rigorous review of its options, and identified a set of cost-effective strategies that will help build resilience for people and the environment.

Maryland has now taken a step further. On January 1, 2013, Governor O’Malley signed an executive order [PDF] requiring new and rebuilt state structures to consider climate change and rising sea levels in a state with the fourth-longest tidal coastline in the continental United States. This is a significant stride to keep Maryland’s coastal region resilient in the face of uncertainty.

The executive order is almost one of a kind here in the U.S., requiring all new and re-engineered state buildings to be elevated two feet higher than the base level for what is becoming the new normal, a 100 year flood. Maryland has over 450 existing facilities and 400 miles of roadways in the areas likely to be impacted by sea level rise. 

Additionally, state agencies must begin considering coastal flooding and sea level rising for new and damaged state buildings. Later this year, the state will release additional requirements for existing infrastructure like sewer systems, the failure of which can have catastrophic effects for both local communities and our rivers.

This is a great step. However, Maryland should continue pushing forward, requiring all new and retrofitted coastal buildings to be elevated at least two feet. This will help to make all of the coastal communities more resilient in the face of a changing climate. American Rivers applauds the state of Maryland for continuing to move the ball forward on climate preparedness.