Woods Hole Partnership Examines Possible Sea-Level Rise

FALMOUTH – A local partnership presented their plans for helping Woods Hole adapt to rising sea levels at a recent meeting of the Falmouth Select Board.

Resilient Woods Hole is a private-public collaboration to prepare the village for sea-level rise, flooding, and shoreline loss.

The initiative is led by a partnership between Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Project Manager Leslie-Ann McGee said local businesses, community groups, and other stakeholders are all part of Resilient Woods Hole’s steering committee.

The group received a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management for recent community outreach including adaptation workshops and stakeholder surveys.

The surveys involved presenting residents with different options for adaptations like constructing hard structures or taking a more natural approach. The forms also asked if people wanted to retreat or live with water.

“One of the remarkable answers was ‘Doing nothing is not an option.’ I think the community recognizes that they have to start adapting and they wanted to work with us to do that,” McGee said.

She said the group received a second grant from CZM of roughly $500,000 for a series of projects.

The money will be used to design and construct floodproofing measures in critical flood entry points in the village.

Resilient Woods Hole will also use the funds to perform a feasibility study of a dune restoration project on Stony Beach.

McGee said for long-term work, Resilient Woods Hole will continue public outreach to gain more support for community-based adaptations.

“We’re going to be sitting down with the actual residents and talking to them in great depth about what they would like to see (…) and then getting them to work together as a group to determine what pathway they want to go with for their adaptations,” she said.

McGee added Resilient Woods Hole will also create informative podcasts, self-guided walking tours for visitors to learn about climate resiliency, and it will use technology to reach out to diverse residents.  

McGee presented a local tide gauge chart from NOAA that demonstrated about a foot of sea level rise in the area since the 1930s.

Resilient Woods Hole previously conducted a flood vulnerability assessments of the village and learned that a one percent storm surge in the year 2070 could potentially flood 5.4 miles of roadway and 362 buildings in Woods Hole.

CZM also funded a regulatory review for the group to make recommendations on how local zoning, historic, and wetlands bylaws could be changed to support resiliency projects.

Select board member Doug Brown said he hoped it would be possible for these projects to be streamlined instead of having too many agencies involved.

He said the select board could potentially work together with Resilient Woods Hole to send a letter to the state requesting that CZM and the Department of Environmental Protection be the sole permitting authorities for resiliency projects.

By Brian Engles, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.

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