Gov. Martin O'Malley signed an executive order Friday to increase Maryland's long-term resiliency to storm-related flooding and sea level rise.
The Climate Change and Coast Smart Construction Executive Order directs all new and reconstructed state structures, including other infrastructure improvements, be planned and constructed to avoid or minimize future flood damage. It requires new and rebuilt state structures to be elevated two or more feet above the 100-year base flood level.
"As storms such as Hurricane Sandy have shown, it is vital that we commit our resources and expertise to create a ready and resilient Maryland by taking the necessary steps to adapt to the rising sea and unpredictable weather," O'Malley said. "In studying and planning for storms and climate change, we can ensure that our land, infrastructure, and most importantly our citizens are safe and prepared."
The order also directs the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to work with the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, local government and other parties to develop additional Coast Smart guidelines within nine months. Recommendations for applying the new construction guidelines to non-state infrastructure projects that are partially or fully funded in the state's capital budget will also be developed.
Over the past three decades, Maryland's climate has become hotter and water levels within the Chesapeake bay have continued to rise," DNR's Program Manager for Climate Change Policy Zoe Johnson said. "The region's recent extreme storms and weather have demonstrated just how vulnerable our natural resources and infrastructure can be to such events."
Johnson said the order will be instrumental in reshaping how infrastructure is built along Maryland coasts.
The order also tasks the Scientific and Technical Working Group of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change to provide updated sea level rise projections for Maryland.
A study by the U.S. Geological Survey published over the summer in the journal Nature Climate Change showed the 1,000 kilometer stretch of coast that runs from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to north of Boston is a "hot spot" of sea level rise. The study stated that sea levels along this stretch, which includes Maryland, since 1990 are rising at an annual rate three to four times faster than the global average.
Revised sea level rise projections are planned to be released by the end of June.