Voted by Selectmen 4/7/15
SUBJECT: Coastal Impacts and Our Community
The Problem: Scituate is a coastal community that experiences frequent violent storms causing property and habitat damage along its 9.5 miles of oceanfront. Since the establishment of the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program in the 1970’s Scituate residents, businesses and the municipality have received insurance payouts of $60,214,462. This amount exceeds the payments to the next four highest paid communities in Massachusetts (Marshfield plus Hull plus Revere plus Nantucket) If recent history is an indicator, the frequency and intensity of storms along Scituate’s coastline will increase as a consequence of climate change.
Scituate was founded as farming and fishing community. Native inhabitants and the European settlers that followed built their homes well back from the troublesome coastline. After the construction of rail transportation in the mid-1800, the community began to grow as a residential outpost of Boston. Seasonal homes were built along the seashore. In the 1900’s many of these cottages were converted to full-time residences. During this time 4.1 miles of concrete seawalls and 2.7 miles of revetments were constructed to ameliorate the impact of storms on coastal property. Most of these protective structures have exceeded their design life and need extensive repairs. Climatologists are now projecting that the warming of the planet will cause the ocean to rise more than a foot over the next 25 years (and possibly up to three feet higher by 2090). Areas that have flooded in the past will flood more frequently. Neighborhoods that have not typically flooded will begin to flood with some regularity. The aging seawalls and revetments that were designed to protect against storm waters of the 1930’s will offer scant protection to vital public infrastructure and private property.
The Challenge: The Town must manage current and future resources to minimize the loss of property, protect the public safety, protect public infrastructure and minimize adverse impacts upon the coastal environment. The Town of Scituate is just one link in the chain of all South Shore coastal communities. Partnering with our neighbors and regional, federal and state agencies to address this challenge will be critical to any success. This will mean investigating and considering the use of selected coastal mitigation and adaptation strategies such as flood-proofing property, beach nourishment, armoring the coast, federal and state grants for land acquisition and/or implementation of long-term planning mechanisms for retreat from the shoreline. The Board of Selectmen will task a Coastal Advisory Commission with helping shape the Town’s response to this challenge.