SENATE DOCKET, NO. 1422        FILED ON: 1/18/2013

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 344


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts



William N. Brownsberger


To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
Court assembled:

The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act creating a process to evaluate exposure to catastrophic flooding as a result of climate change.






William N. Brownsberger

Second Suffolk and Middlesex

Martha M. Walz

8th Suffolk

Lori A. Ehrlich

8th Essex

Jason M. Lewis

Fifth Middlesex

Kay Khan

11th Middlesex

Michael J. Barrett

Third Middlesex

James M. Cantwell

4th Plymouth

Karen E. Spilka

Second Middlesex and Norfolk

Sal N. DiDomenico

Middlesex and Suffolk

David M. Rogers

24th Middlesex

Patricia D. Jehlen

Second Middlesex

SENATE DOCKET, NO. 1422        FILED ON: 1/18/2013

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 344

By Mr. Brownsberger, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 344) of William N. Brownsberger, Martha M. Walz, Lori A. Ehrlich, Jason M. Lewis and other members of the General Court for legislation to create a process to evaluate exposure to catastrophic flooding as a result of climate change.  Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts



In the Year Two Thousand Thirteen



An Act creating a process to evaluate exposure to catastrophic flooding as a result of climate change.


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

WHEREAS recent hurricanes and intense storms have caused severe damage in Massachusetts and neighboring states; and

WHEREAS there has been a trend of sea level rise in Massachusetts over the past several decades; and

WHEREAS the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects continued sea level rise over the next several decades; and

WHEREAS Massachusetts has many coastal communities and a wealth of resources that are potentially vulnerable to flooding; and

WHEREAS there is a need to gauge the flooding risks facing our infrastructure, eco-systems, and populace to inform decision making and further the safety, health, and economic vitality of the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS there is a need for the Commonwealth to have a common set of flood-risk scenarios that describe future potential conditions to support decision making,

Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs shall convene an advisory committee on  flood risks created by climate change.  The advisory committee shall be chaired by the secretary, or his designee, and be comprised of representatives with expertise in the following areas: coastal zone and river flooding, hydrological and hydraulic modeling, natural hazard preparedness and mitigation, sea level and storm surge projections, risk measurement and reduction, emergency management planning and scenario planning. 

The advisory committee, shall, within 18 months from the date of enactment complete an initial report which shall include:

(1) a set of combined sea-level rise and storm-surge scenarios for Massachusetts;

(2) estimates of risk levels of each scenario occurring by 2030, 2050 and 2100;

(3) estimates of flood water levels in  coastal areas under each scenario which shall reflect appropriate local information such as local uplift and subsidence, and coastal erosion rates;

(4) estimates based on hydrological and hydraulic modeling of flood water levels in each scenario in historically coastal areas now currently protected by dams, including the Charles River Basin and the Mystic River Basin;

(5) develop scenario-planning and the capability to explore policy options for guiding where to build, what to build, and how to strengthen communities in areas of greatest risk.

The committee shall conduct a public hearing before procuring any contract for consulting services and a second hearing before finalizing its initial report.

The initial report shall serve as the basis for vulnerability assessments which state agencies and public utilities shall develop for their portfolio of assets.  For the purposes of this paragraph, state agencies shall include all executive agencies, including without limitation: Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Public Utilities, Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and independent and quasi-public agencies, including but not limited to, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and the Massachusetts Port Authority.  Public utilities shall include energy generation, and transmission,  solid waste, drinking water, wastewater and stormwater and telecommunication utilities serving areas identified in the initial report as subject to material risk of flooding.  

The vulnerability assessments shall classify the losses over time associated with each major asset for each flooding scenario as unacceptable, non-critical or immaterial.  For assets exposed to material risk of unacceptable losses, the vulnerability assessment shall include order-of-magnitude cost-estimates (a) for measures to protect the assets from flooding; (b) for measures to make the assets flood-resilient; and (c) for removal and relocation of the assets from flood-exposed areas.  Estimates will also be prepared for the economic, social, and environmental damages if no adaptation actions are taken.  Qualitative benefit-cost discussions of projected social impacts of flood prevention versus flood resilience shall also be included.

The vulnerability assessments shall be submitted to the advisory committee within 18 months of the completion of the initial report and the advisory committee shall compile the results into a final report.   The final report shall include identification of any major potential inter-agency investments such as  multi-property sea walls or drainage systems that  decrease overall costs versus investments targeted at protection of individual assets.  The advisory committee shall conduct a public hearing before issuing its final report.  The advisory committee shall issue its final report within 30 months of the date of enactment and shall file the same with the clerks of the House and the Senate.