Maryland Climate Change and "Coast Smart" Construction (Executive Order 01.01.2012.29) – Application to Transportation Infrastructure and Facilities

On December 28, 2012, then-Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, Executive Order 01.01.2012.29, Climate Change and “Coast Smart” Construction, directing all state agencies to consider the risk of coastal flooding and sea level rise in the siting and design of state structures to avoid or minimize impacts. The order applies to all state facilities and structures, including transportation facilities.

The order identifies the threats posed to the state by climate change, including sea-level rise, storm events, erosion, severe coastal flooding, and inundation of low-lying lands. The state estimates that approximately 490 state-owned facilities and 400 miles of roadway are likely to be impacted by sea-level rise over the next 100-years. To address these threats, the Governor orders state agencies to consider potential climate changes and develop strategies for avoiding or mitigating impacts.

When reconstructing or rehabilitating substantially damaged state structures, agencies must consider the risk of flooding and site and design the project to avoid or minimize impacts.

All new and substantially reconstructed or rehabilitated permanent state structures located in the floodplain must be elevated two feet above the 100-year based flood elevation, effective July 1, 2013. The state Department of General Services is authorized to grant variances for particular projects after consideration of twelve relevant factors: the danger that materials may be swept onto other lands; the danger to life and property due to flooding and erosion; the susceptibility of the proposed structure to flood damage; the importance of the services provided by the structure; the availability of suitable alternative locations; and the necessity and benefits of a waterfront location, among other things.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was directed to develop guidelines concerning Climate Change and "Coast Smart" Construction. DNR was mandated meet with the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and other relevant parties to begin discussing recommendations within 45 days and submit an initial report to the Governor within nine months of the effective date of the order. The report was to include recommendations for "Coast Smart" criteria for “new, reconstructed, or rehabilitated state structures, as well as other infrastructure improvements such as roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, drainage systems, and essential public utilities.” DNR was also directed to make recommendations about the potential application of the "Coast Smart" guidelines to non-state infrastructure projects that rely on state funding. In response to these requirements set out in the Executive Order, DNR issued “Climate Change and CoastSmart Construction Infrastructure Siting and Design Guidelines” in January 2014.

The state’s Critical Area Commission (the state agency that has authority over coastal development) was directed to evaluate its existing regulations and policies for “State Agency Action Resulting in Development on State-Owned Land,” and consider revising them in consideration of climate change and the risk of sea-level rise and other extreme weather-related impacts. The Critical Area Commission proposed regulations incorporating climate change and sea-level rise in October 2014, , and officially adopted updated regulations in December 2014. The updated regulations define “climate resilient practices” and require state agencies to consult with and demonstrate to the Commission that state-proposed development in the Critical Area on state land considers sea-level rise impacts and incorporates climate resilient practices.

The Scientific and Technical Working Group of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change was directed to review the sea-level rise projections published in the 2008 Maryland Climate Action Plan and provide updated projections based on federal guidance and an assessment of the latest climate science with 180 days of the effective date of the order. The Working Group published their report, Updating Maryland’s Sea-level Rise Projections June 26, 2013; the update narrows the probable range of sea level rise, following the probabilistic approach used by the National Research Council for their report Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

In May 2014, Maryland legislatively established a new Coast Smart Council within DNR, and requiring the Council to adopt coast smart siting and design criteria to address sea-level rise and coastal flooding. The Council developed coast smart criteria that applies to state capital projects involving construction of a structure or reconstruction of a structure with substantial damage; the criteria went into effect July 1, 2015.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated October 31, 2015.

Publication Date: December 28, 2012

Related Organizations:

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • State of Maryland

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Resource Types:

  • Executive order

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