Durham, New Hampshire HMP Climate Adaptation Chapter: Developing Strategies to Protect Areas at Risk from Flooding due to Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

Developed for the Town of Durham, New Hampshire, this report provides adaptation strategies to protect areas of the Town that are at risk of flooding due to sea level rise and other impacts from climate change. This chapter will be adopted as a subset of Durham’s existing Hazard Mitigation Plan, and will be recommended to be incorporated into the Master Plan.

Projected climate impacts for the region are detailed prior to offering climate mitigation and adaptation recommendations. Coastal New Hampshire is expected to experience climate impacts such as an increase in temperature (specifically in winter); increase in the number of extreme precipitation events; an increase in the rain-to-snow precipitation ratio; coastal flooding and sea level rise. The combined effects of thermal ocean expansion, increases in snow melt, and coastal land subsidence make coastal New Hampshire particularly vulnerable to a rising sea level.

Recommended sea level rise policy options for Durham include:

  • Regulate development in potential sea level rise hazard areas through land use planning - using zoning, subdivision and site plan regulations, and/or a special overlay districts to designate high-risk areas and specify the conditions for the use and development.
  • Require that new or replacement road/stream crossings are designed in compliance with New Hampshire Stream Crossing Guidelines.
  • Promote conservation and management of open space, wetlands, and/or sea level rise boundary zones to separate developed areas from high-hazard areas.
  • Consider prohibiting the redevelopment of areas destroyed by storms or chronic erosion in order to prevent future losses.
  • Establish setbacks in high-risk areas that account for potential sea level rise.

Non-regulatory recommendations for sea level rise adaptation are offered also which include: Climate Change in Education and Outreach strategies, and Planning and Municipal Practice – Emergency Management and Hazard Mitigation recommendations.  

A series of four color maps of sea level rise effects were developed for the Town of Durham, and are included at the end of this report:

Critical Facilities and Key Resources – recognizing the list of community assets located within 500-ft of the 2100 projected sea level rise data

Aerial Imagery – high resolution, leaf-off, color, aerial photography of the Town of Durham overlaid with the 2100 projected sea level rise data

Land Cover – digital land cover data layer within 500-ft of the 2100 projected sea level rise data - to provide more information on the potential impacts to wildlife habitats due to climate change and projected sea level rise

Zoning – current zoning districts overlaid with the 2100 projected sea level rise data


Durham is located in the Piscataqua/Great Bay region of coastal New Hampshire. Sea level rise and other climate impact projections used for the study are derived from the report: Climate Change in the Piscataqua/Great Bay Region: Past, Present, and Future (2011, by Carbon Solutions New England) 


The Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC) received funds from the New Hampshire Coastal Program to assist the Town of Durham in developing this climate adaptation chapter. The project was funded by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act in conjunction with the NH Department of Environmental Services and the New Hampshire Coastal Program.



Publication Date: June 25, 2013

Related Organizations:

  • New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
  • Town of Durham, New Hampshire


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


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