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Climate talks help educate, prepare

Union Leader Correspondent

January 20. 2014 9:14PM

DOVER — As an artic front descends upon the region, four New England communities are taking part in a project to help educate and prepare for the potential effect of climate change.

In the fall of 2012, participants from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Science Impact Collaborative, the Consensus Building Institute and the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) began conducting interviews of residents, business owners and officials in Dover "to assess their level of knowledge and opinions on climate change," according to a release.

Throughout 2013, about 120 residents took part in a series of conversations and workshops to consider what changes the city could make to alleviate some of the climate changes.

"It is exciting to see so many residents of Dover participating in this unique opportunity to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and testing the effectiveness of role-play simulation," said Christopher Parker, Dover's director of planning and community development.

Similar sessions were conducted in Wells, Maine, Barnstable, Mass. and Cranston, R.I. to assess potential risks and critical vulnerabilities of the communities, which are all adjacent to one of four National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) sites — including Great Bay in New Hampshire, Wells Bay in Maine, Waquoit Bay in Massachusetts and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

City Planner Steve Bird said local participants previously believed flooding along the Cocheco and Bellamy rivers — which both flow through the city — is the greatest threat.In 2005, 2006 and 2008 three "100-year floods" struck the region and caused wide-spread issues across the state and tri-state area.

"Other vulnerable areas could include storm water run-off increases, impacts to drinking water supply, heat waves and power loss," Bird said in an e-mail.

Bird said residents also suggested reducing the risk by moving people and structures away from floodplains, increasing the capacity of the storm water system and using more flood-resilient building design.

"It is expected that it will lead to the preparation of a climate adaptation plan. We have started to investigate potential funding sources for such a plan. Climate change has the potential to impact many city services and present some challenges to maintaining city infrastructure," Bird said in an e-mail.

"We do plan to have a public meeting near the end of the project in June to present the findings and discuss the lessons learned," Bird said.

"Climate change has the potential to impact coastal communities in a variety of ways, including increased flooding; salt-water intrusion in marshes, farmlands and wells; erosion; and damage to infrastruc­ture and property," according to a NERR newsletter.

As a result, researchers from MIT are in the process of looking over the results from the workshops and conduct follow-up interviews with many of the participants. Afterwards, their findings about public opinion of climate change, lessons learned and the effectiveness of engaging the public will be published through a series of papers, according to the release.

The program, which began through a $637,023 grant from the NERR Science Collaborative, operates through a cooperative agreement between the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the National Oceanic and Atmo­spheric Administration (NOAA).

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