Maryland Coastal Adaptation Report Card 2021

On January 21, 2022, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change’s Adaptation and Resiliency Work Group in collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Integration and Application Network (UMCES-IAN) released the 2021 Maryland Coastal Adaptation Report Card. Informed by stakeholder engagement, the Coastal Adaptation Report Card “gives a snapshot of the current adaptation status in Maryland’s coastal zone, and establishes a framework for measuring future progress.” The report card is based on four types of indicators for: socioeconomic, planning, ecosystems, and flooding. The report card serves two primary purposes. First, it can help the state track progress on adaptation and resilience in the coastal zone by using specific indicators. Second, it can inform future investments and updates in Maryland. The report card can serve as a peer-learning example for other state and local governments evaluating the use adaptation and resilience metrics. 

The report card visually illustrates Maryland’s indicator and scoring system with a colored wheel divided by the four primary indicators. Those four types of indicators are further subdivided into 15 total indicators. Each of the 15 sub-indicators are individually assigned a color. Then, the score and color of the four primary indicators are cumulatively based on an indicator’s sub-indicators. 

To create the report card, the state and UMCES-IAN used two evaluative criteria: colors and letters. 

In regards to the colors: 

  • Dark green means that adaptation goals have been met; 
  • Light green means that adaptation goals are close to being met; 
  • Yellow means that goals are being managed but not met; 
  • Orange means that adaptation goals are failing to be met; and 
  • Red means that adaptation goals have not been met. 

In terms of letter grades, dark green is scored as an A, light green a B, yellow a C, orange a D, and red an F.

Maryland scored a B- on its first report card. As summarized in the report card:

Some indicators measured already meet, or are close to meeting, current adaptation goals, while others require significant investment to achieve adaptation goals. The Ecosystem and Planning categories score an A and a B+, respectively. Indicators in these categories are close to adaptation targets, but effort is required to improve certain indicators. Progress toward meeting Flooding and Socioeconomic adaptation goals is moderate, with both categories scoring a C. Many indicators in these categories miss adaptation targets and require further action.

Figure 1. Figure 1 illustrates the colored wheel system using the stoplight color scheme to show Maryland’s Report Card scoring process.

The indicators used in the report card were selected through a multistep process by identifying the climate change threats and considerations of priority concern to stakeholders in Maryland, how the threats are being addressed, and what adaptation actions are most important to measure progress. This process was informed by stakeholder engagement. Then, UMCES-IAN determined the current status of each of the 15 total indicators by comparing the best available data based on expert knowledge, scientific consensus, and legal and regulatory initiatives. 

  • Socioeconomic indicators evaluate factors affecting Maryland’s residents, businesses, communities, and local economies due to climate change.
    • Loss coverage evaluates how much future flood damage of properties expected to be impacted in a 100-year flood is covered by current insurance policies.
    • Business disruption measures if the cost of expected business disruptions due to coastal change will exceed five percent of a business’s annual income, which is considered substantial by the Congressional Budget Office.
    • Repetitive loss properties are defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as those with two or more National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims over $1,000 within ten years. This indicator assesses the number of repetitive loss properties that have been adapted to coastal hazards through structural changes like elevations. 
    • Preserved farmland identifies programs that protect farmland through conservation easements or other tools. The indicator measures what percent of program goals have been met. 
  • Planning indicators measure progress towards comprehensive planning across all levels of government in Maryland to adapt to coastal threats.
    • Nuisance flood plans are required for Maryland jurisdictions experiencing high tide flooding, sea-level rise inundation, and/or coastal flooding. This indicator reflects the number of communities complying with this law. 
    • Green infrastructure looks at the number of green infrastructure plans in Maryland’s coastal counties.
    • Flood mapping measures the current state of flood mapping products available and their associated data quality, geographic scope, and technical assistance and support. 
  • Ecosystem indicators assess the implementation and results of adaptation actions protecting Maryland’s ecosystems including forests, wetlands, and islands. 
    • Forests consider whether forest canopy loss is occurring in areas critical for maintaining and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
    • Wetlands evaluates whether the state’s “no net loss” of wetlands goal (as determined by federal and state laws) is being met.
    • Shoreline erosion tracks the rate of shoreline erosion to illustrate the effectiveness of different shoreline management techniques. 
    • Dredge materials assesses the beneficial use of dredge materials in Waterway Improvement Fund (WIF) projects.
  • Flooding indicators evaluate adaptation progress related to flooding in Maryland.
    • Critical facilities evaluate the number of critical facilities, such as  hospitals, emergency services, and utilities, located in FEMA-regulated floodplains. 
    • The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary program that incentivizes local municipalities to take community floodplain management practices that reduce flood risk and exceed the minimum requirements of the NFIP. This indicator measures the progress of communities participating in the CRS based on their CRS rating. 
    • Freeboard is the height above a 100-year flood level that a structure is built. Building or elevating the first floor of a structure above this base flood elevation can reduce flood risk. The State of Maryland recommends a freeboard height of two feet; however, local governments can set their own freeboard requirements. This indicator assesses the number and types of these requirements at the local level. 
    • Floodplain populations take into account the changes of human population in the floodplain.

The state’s goal is to continue using the report card as one adaptation scoring and tracking metric in Maryland’s coastal zone. For future report cards, the state identified several areas for continued growth and improvement including: better evaluating and tracking adaptation measures to ensure equitable adaptation; developing more structural adaptation plans to move capital projects outside of the 100-year floodplain; increasing community access to funding for adaptation projects; and increasing community awareness about and uptake of flood insurance programs. 

Publication Date: January 21, 2022

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Indicators
  • Progress report
  • Tool (general)

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