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Summary of State Agency Action

Between Maryland’s 2008 and 2011 adaptation plans, the state developed 174 total goals relating to a variety of sectors, including: coastal, agriculture, biodiversity, forestry, public health, infrastructure, and water, among others. The state has continued to evaluate its progress towards achieving goals laid out in these plans through the regular convenings and annual reports of the Adaptation and Response Working Group of the Maryland Climate Commission. This page describes some of the progress Maryland state agencies are making to implement goals in each of these sectors.

Agriculture

Maryland’s 2011 Plan includes the following goals related to adaptation in the agriculture sector: improving communications and education efforts around integrating climate considerations in agriculture, increasing crop diversity, improving water management practices and best management practices (BMPs) to ensure performance under future climate conditions, protecting against invasive pests and diseases, and revising targets for agricultural land conservation and preservation, among other goals. Maryland also aims to explore methods for improving carbon sequestration and generating energy on farms.

Maryland developed a communications brochure for adaptation in farming practices in 2014. It identifies climate impacts that will affect agriculture, management practices for building resilience, and adaptation strategies for specific products in the agriculture industry. In April 2017, the Maryland Climate Commission’s Adaptation Response Working Group hosted workshops in two regions of the state focusing on the importance of best practices to maintain healthy soils to ensure water quality and availability, ecological resilience, carbon sequestration, and improved yields. The workshops included speakers from the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), University of Maryland Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, and others. MDA also administers the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program, which provides grants to farmers to cover up to 87.5 percent of the installation costs of best management practices that conserve water and safeguard water quality, prevent soil erosion, and manage nutrients.

Biodiversity

Maryland’s 2008 and 2011 plans include many goals aimed at protecting biodiversity and ecosystems in light of climate change. These goals recommend prioritizing investments in restoration and preservation towards the most valuable lands and waters, accounting  for how climate change will impact ecosystems over time to prevent habitat fragmentation or allow for wetland migration, for instance. Maryland also aims to promote greater stewardship on private lands through new and expanded incentives and to integrate adaptation goals into existing resource management planning processes.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducted wildlife vulnerability assessments for individual species, using Nature Serve's Climate Change Vulnerability Index (among other assessment tools), and incorporated these findings into the 2015 update of the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The results are discussed in Chapter 6 of the SWAP, which focuses on climate change impacts, vulnerabilities of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats, and actual impacts and responses of SGCN to climate change. Maryland has also incorporated climate change into its spatial planning framework, GreenPrint, which maps areas of high ecological value that should be prioritized for conservation and preservation. GreenPrint is used to target state conservation efforts efforts and investments, and DNR has identified wetland adaptation areas (areas that will become important for wetland migration as sea levels rise) among the "Targeted Ecological Areas" in the GreenPrint tool. Furthermore, every parcel of land in the coastal zone being considered for acquisition is reviewed for carbon sequestration potential. In 2015, DNR Chesapeake and Coastal Service (CCS) also developed a white paper as a guidance document that provides recommendations for best management practices that can improve the climate resiliency of shoreline, riparian, stream, floodplain, wetland, and other aquatic areas. It is designed to help CCS's Habitat Restoration and Conservation Division better integrate climate change into project planning, implementation, and monitoring. As documented in the state Coast Smart Council’s annual report, the state is working to enhance resilience and connect habitats, including in some cases through removal of existing hard infrastructure.

 

Coasts & Oceans

Maryland’s 2008 Plan focuses primarily on goals and needs affecting the coastal and ocean sector. It recommends actions such as requiring integration of adaptation strategies into existing state and local policies and programs; improving and maintaining sea-level rise mapping and modeling; strengthening building codes in vulnerable coastal areas; exploring climate change risks to insurance availability and affordability; and promoting sustainable shoreline and buffer management practices, among other actions.

In response to these recommendations, Maryland has taken steps to ensure that sea-level rise projections and mapping tools are updated with the best available science. With the passage of H.B. 514 in 2015 (which codified the Maryland Commission on Climate Change), the Maryland legislature added a new requirement for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to establish and update sea-level rise projections at least every five years (Md. Environment Code § 2-1306). The law also requires the development and online publication of maps indicating areas most likely to be affected by storm surge, flooding, and extreme weather events, in consideration of future sea-level rise scenarios. The state first came out with sea-level rise projections for the state in 2008 and later updated those sea-level rise projections in 2013. Existing online mapping tools like Maryland's Coastal Atlas also incorporate data layers to help users understand risks related to sea-level rise, storm surge, and erosion. Additionally, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a digital Flood Risk Application for the state’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps. It shows current 100-year and 500-year floodplains and flood elevations, but users can also access additional data layers showing areas at risk of future storm surge and sea-level rise.

Maryland is also working to ensure investments in coastal areas are well-informed to foster resilience. The Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, completed a Coastal Resiliency Assessment in April 2016. The assessment identified statewide priorities for conservation and restoration in areas where coastal habitats and natural features provide flood risk reduction benefits to coastal communities, factoring in data on coastal hazards, habitats, population density, and indicators related to social vulnerability (like age, income, and language proficiency). This information was then used to further update the GreenPrint ecological scoring criteria to prioritize parcels for conservation, enhancement, and restoration investments.

Maryland has also taken steps to evaluate and address effects of ocean acidification, establishing a Task Force through legislation passed in 2014 (H.B. 118). Pursuant to the legislation, the Task Force produced its final report and recommendations on strategies to help mitigate effects of ocean acidification, including through expanding research, monitoring, outreach and communications efforts; focusing on key species; providing assistance to affected industries; and pursuing legislative action.

Forestry

Forestry goals in Maryland’s 2011 Plan include recommendations that the state encourage forest adaptation stewardship on private land through new tools and incentives, like conservation easements; review and revise forestry best management practices; and utilize a variety of incentives, regulatory changes, educational programs, and other approaches to ensure the preservation of forested areas most suitable for long-term survival under future climate conditions.

Consistent with these recommendations, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources incorporated climate change into its 2010 Forest Resource Assessment and included climate change resilience as one of the top action areas in its five-year Forest Resource Strategy, which is developed based on the forest resource assessment. The fifth revision (February 2012) to Maryland's Sustainable Forest Management Plan added a section on the effects of climate change on state forests. Maryland's Forest Preservation Act of 2013 institutes a "no net forest loss" policy and expands tax incentives for private landowners to conserve forestlands, to plant streamside trees, to remove invasive species, and to improve wildlife habitat. Also in support of the 2013 Act, the Maryland Forest Service created a new "Lawn to Woodland" program in partnership with Arbor Day Foundation in early 2014. The stewardship program provides trees, tools, and technical assistance to help landowners who own one to four acres of land convert unused lawn to forest cover at no cost to them. University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science and the Maryland Forest Service also collaborated with partners to develop a guide for landowners, Helping Your Woodland Adapt to a Changing Climate. It identifies best practices for keeping woodlands healthy in light of projections for how climate change is expected to affect forested lands within the state (such as changes in species distribution, increases in temperatures, changes and increases in pests and diseases; changes in coastal areas; and increased risks of drought and wildfire).

Infrastructure

Infrastructure goals identified in Maryland’s 2008 and 2011 plans include conducting a statewide infrastructure vulnerability assessment; considering climate change in growth and development planning; strengthening design standards; enhancing preparedness of transportation, utilities, and other service providers; exploring climate impacts on energy needs; and enhancing tree canopy and low-impact development to help mitigate flooding.

Pursuant to H.B. 615 (2014), the Maryland Coast Smart Council developed Coast Smart Siting and Design Criteria in 2015 to ensure that state facilities in coastal areas are built to be resilient to future sea-level rise and flood risk. State agencies have reported on their implementation of requirements under the Coast Smart siting and design criteria and how they have been integrating these considerations into their own review processes and investments, as indicated in the Council's 2016 Annual Report.

Maryland's State Highway Administration (SHA) has led efforts to assess infrastructure vulnerabilities to sea-level rise and coastal storms. SHA completed a Climate Resilience Vulnerability Assessment Pilot Project funded by the Federal Highway Administration in 2015. As part of the pilot, SHA assessed and mapped the vulnerability of roads and bridges to sea-level rise and coastal flooding in two coastal counties, and has since expanded this analysis to all other coastal and tidally influenced counties. SHA plans to incorporate the findings from these vulnerability analyses into planning and programming efforts. Other modal units within Maryland Department of Transportation have also undertaken vulnerability assessments, including Maryland Transit Administration, Maryland Port Administration, and Maryland Transportation Authority. These agencies are also incorporating findings from vulnerability assessments and Coast Smart criteria into project decisionmaking (e.g. incorporating 2050 and 2100 sea-level change maps into environmental review). Additionally, in 2016, the Maryland legislature passed the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016, which establishes state transportation goals and measures by which MDOT is required to score and rank certain major capital projects for inclusion in the Consolidated Transportation Program (the state’s six-year capital budget for transportation projects) and Maryland Transportation Plan (the state’s long-range transportation plan). Increased resilience is among the performance measures used to rank and prioritized projects under the plan’s system preservation goal.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

Maryland’s 2008 and 2011 plans both contain goals relating to the public health and emergency preparedness sectors, including recommendations that the state assess: health threats resulting from or affected by climate change, the vulnerability of populations to those threats, and the state’s ability to respond. The plans also recommend addressing climate-related health risks in planning processes, including hazard mitigation and emergency response planning; improving the resolution and analysis of health and population data alongside other spatial information (e.g., land use, water quality); and targeting outreach efforts to highest-risk populations.

With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded in 2012, Maryland Department of Health (MDH) implemented the CDC’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework and developed a Public Health Strategy for Climate Change and a Climate and Health Profile report. The report, completed in April 2016, quantitatively assesses how climate change is affecting or is likely to affect the health of Marylanders, including identifying specific vulnerable communities and specific populations that might disproportionately experience these effects. Later in 2016, MDH was awarded a new five-year grant from CDC to develop a Climate Change Health Adaptation Program, building on previous efforts including the Public Health Strategy for Climate Change and the findings from the Climate and Health Profile Report. A central part of this new five-year effort involves working with MDH’s Office for Minority Health and Health Disparities, local health departments, and other partners to identify the most vulnerable communities and what their needs are, and to target engagement efforts towards these harder-to-reach communities. Work continues to strengthen relationships with stakeholders — including vulnerable populations and others previously not reached — and to develop a plan for communicating about climate change health adaptation efforts in communities.

 

Water

Maryland’s 2008 and 2011 plans recommend a variety of actions to improve water quality and ensure long-term water supply, such as by reducing impervious surface cover and adding incentives for green infrastructure solutions; addressing vulnerable water supply and treatment infrastructure; studying and modeling sea-level rise effects on salinity and groundwater flow; identifying and protecting high-quality groundwater recharge areas; exploring opportunities to reconnect streams to floodplains; and encouraging water suppliers to consider climate change, among other recommendations.

In May 2017, Maryland enacted the Clean Water Commerce Act of 2017 (H.B. 417), which authorizes up to $30 million in competitive grants over four years from the Bay Restoration Fund for projects that will improve water quality in the Bay. Projects can include stormwater management approaches, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and failing septic systems, and other strategies to address combined sewer overflows. Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has also integrated the state’s “Coast Smart” criteria for siting and design into the application processes relating to water and wastewater projects it oversees. MDE has produced a brochure to help guide planning for water resources in a changing climate. The brochure identifies planning guidelines and management practices that can help build resilience to coastal and riverine flooding, and improve water quality and water supply.

The state has also made efforts to understand groundwater supply and changes that may result from sea-level rise and climate change. The Coastal Plain and Fractured Rock studies, a partnership between Maryland state agencies and the U.S. Geological Survey, aim to provide data and information about water quantity and quality in these aquifer systems to inform decisionmaking and water management. The Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve also began an effort in 2012 to monitor groundwater at Jug Bay (an important tidal freshwater estuary in the Bay region), for the primary purpose of evaluating changes in groundwater over time as a result of sea-level rise and related changes to the marsh plants.

(Research last updated: July 16, 2018).

 
 
 
 

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