Updated risk mitigation plan addresses climate change and sea level rise

Hingham Harbor

July 6, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

The recently completed 121-page Risk Mitigation Plan for the Town of Hingham assesses potential impacts on the town from flooding, high winds, winter storms, bushfires, geohazards, extreme temperatures, drought and invasive species while identifying the projected impacts of global warming for each hazard.

“Warming temperatures will fuel changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency and intensity of severe storms,” according to the plan, which defines nearly a dozen objectives – largely to help ensure that critical infrastructure sites are protected from natural hazards and to protect existing residential and commercial areas from flooding.

Other objectives include public education on natural hazards and mitigation measures; encourage future development in areas that are not prone to natural hazards; prepare to respond to various natural hazards; taking into account the potential impacts of future climate change; and work with surrounding communities to ensure regional cooperation and solutions to address multiple hazards, such as coastal erosion.

“Hazard mitigation planning reduces loss of life and property by minimizing the impact of disasters,” according to Deputy Fire Chief Louis Lachance. “The process begins with state, tribal and local governments identifying common risks and vulnerabilities to natural disasters in their region.”

After identifying these risks, long-term strategies are developed to protect people and property against similar events. “Mitigation plans are crucial to breaking the cycle of disaster damage and reconstruction,” he said.

Federal regulations require risk mitigation plans to be updated every five years in order to qualify for certain risk mitigation grants. The final plan — approved by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — was presented to — and approved by — the Select Board recently.

The city contracted with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council last July to update Hingham’s plan. “We have assembled a fantastic team of Hingham employees from various departments who have worked with MAPC to review and update the current plan,” Lachance explained. “It was a joint effort that was funded by a grant.”

The process included a number of team meetings – and two public meetings – which allowed residents and business owners to ask questions and share concerns that could be incorporated into the plan. “Neighboring communities were also notified of plan updates and invited to public meetings,” Lachance said.

Hingham’s risk mitigation plan is posted at https://www.hingham-ma.gov/387/Emergency-Management.