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UNH-Led Collaborative Gets $180,000 to Assess Flood Risk in Lamprey Watershed
By David Sims
EOS Science Writer

November 30, 2009

DURHAM, N.H. -- A collaborative group led by the University of New Hampshire's Carbon Solutions New England (CSNE) has been awarded more than $180,000 to develop and refine a methodology for assessing flood risk associated with land use and climate change in the Lamprey River watershed in coastal New Hampshire. The grant is one of four awarded nationwide by the UNH Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET).

The UNH-based project is a collaboration between CSNE, the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), and Antioch University New England. Also involved at UNH are the Stormwater Center and NH GRANIT, the statewide clearinghouse for Geographic Information System (GIS) data.

The methodology developed will guide coastal community decision makers and regional planners in planning for effective infrastructure investments, and will provide improved, up-to-date scientific information regarding current and potential future flood risk in the Lamprey River watershed.

"For the Lamprey River watershed, our project aims to develop new definitions of where the 100-year flood plain actually is today and what it might be in the future under scenarios of land-use change and climate change," says research associate professor Cameron Wake of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS) and director of CSNE. Wake notes that, already, the process is one of "engaged scholarship in that we've already talked to a whole range of external partners to find out what the key questions are and we designed the research around those efforts."

Peter Wellenberger, manager of the Great Bay NERR, notes that understanding anticipated local climate change impacts "is a key priority for the reserve, as many of the groups we work with need this information now. This project will enable us to help fill this information gap and deliver products to support decision making at local and regional scales."

Team members will collaborate with planners and other stakeholders to shape the research approach and results interpretation, as well as product development, dissemination, and training.

Cliff Sinnott, executive director of the Rockingham Planning Commission, will chair the project's advisory committee. "The project's emphasis on stakeholder engagement throughout its design will help ensure that data, information, and products are all useful to municipal decision makers and regional planners," Sinnott says.

The Lamprey River, which originates in Northwood's Saddleback Mountains and makes a 47.3 mile journey to Great Bay, encompasses 14 towns, two counties and has a diversity of demographic and ecosystem characteristics.

The core analyses and outputs for this project will include maps at the watershed and municipal scale of the 100-year flood risk boundaries and river discharge at specific locations under selected urban growth and land-use scenarios. As a result, decision-makers and the public within the watershed will have access to new information regarding local flood risk, and they will be educated about how past and potential future land use patterns and climate change will influence the frequency and spatial extent of flooding.

Adds Wake, "We are not developing legal 100-year-flood-plain instruments but, rather, we're developing tools that we expect will assist communities and individuals making decisions."

In total, CICEET awarded $958,000 for place-based technology development, refinement, and demonstration projects that focus on a priority environmental challenge with a direct impact on the well-being of those who live in coastal communities. The projects apply research to challenges related to the dual forces of climate change and land use change. Each project includes someone from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) as principal investigator or co-investigator.

Additional projects are in coastal New Jersey (a partnership between the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University and the Jacques Cousteau NERR); at the South Slough NERR in Oregon, and at the Elkhorn Slough NERR in California.

Carbon Solutions New England is a public-private partnership based out of the University of New Hampshire to promote collective action to achieve a clean, secure energy future. Learn more at

The Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) is a leader in transforming the best available science into practical, innovative tools that coastal managers need to address their priority challenges. CICEET is a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of New Hampshire. Learn more at http://