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Annapolis makes list of historic sites most threatened by sea-level rise

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The historic city of Annapolis, home to an extraordinary collection of 18th- and 19th-century buildings, is among 30 places listed by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in a report recently released sounding the alarm about how Historic Annapolis Litho predicted sea-level rise threatens some of the nation's most beloved and important sites.

Potential harm to Annapolis' National Historic Landmark district was called out today by the nonpartisan scientific organization at a press conference at the Senate Hart Office Building. Other Maryland sites on the list in National Landmarks at Risk: How Rising Seas, Floods, and Wildfires Are Threatening the United States' Most Cherished Historic Sites: the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument on the Eastern Shore and the U.S. Naval Academy.

"The rich heritage of Maryland's coastal areas makes it impossible for us to ignore threats such as sea-level rise," said Maryland Historical Trust Director Rodney Little. "Planning is essential for the long-term protection of places like Annapolis and the landscapes associated with Harriet Tubman, which are critical to our identity, our economy and our culture."

Recognizing the threat to Annapolis, the Maryland Historical Trust has partnered with city officials and a team of other state agencies and nonprofit organizations on a project to build resilience to sea-level rise. The project seeks to document historic resources, analyze their vulnerability to sea-level rise, and prioritize places and structures for intervention. The project will include outreach to the city's residents, workers and tourists to understand how the public values the areas at risk, including the historic downtown and Eastport.

The project is supported by the Certified Local Government program that helps counties and municipalities that have committed to preservation with National Park Service funding administered by MHT. The Annapolis project will apply the Federal Emergency Management Agency's hazard mitigation planning for cultural resources, which describes pre-disaster planning strategies, from risk assessment to the development of hazard mitigation plans.

"The historic seaport, founded in the 17th century, is subject to both chronic monthly flooding at low levels and event driven high-level flooding which threatens cultural and economic resources," said Sharon Kennedy, chair of the Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission. "The Hazard Mitigation Study being undertaken takes a novel and innovative approach, based on best practices from FEMA, to place flood mitigation tools into the hands of individual property owners in advance of an event. By surveying, documenting and assessing community priorities as related to cultural resources, this effort will serve as a template and groundbreaking approach for coastal/waterfront communities across the U.S."

After the Annapolis project is complete, MHT staff will take results to planners and public officials in other towns and cities in Maryland to help inform their strategies to combat risks associated with climate change.

The Chesapeake Bay, whose waters already have risen more than 13 inches over the past century, is projected to rise another 2 to 5 feet by 2100. Since the rivers and streams of the Chesapeake Bay were well-trafficked by early American traders, the coastal areas of the Chesapeake contain a high concentration of vulnerable historic architecture and archeological sites.

Annapolis experiences regular flooding during storms, but the UCS report says it will worsen as sea levels rise further, risking a number of Annapolis buildings, including Middleton Tavern, frequented by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

With a strong commitment by Governor O'Malley to climate change planning, the Department of Natural Resources has developed the CoastSmart program to provide funding and resources to threatened communities. In 2013, MHT received funding from the National Park Service to provide grants and planning assistance to areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Working closely with CoastSmart, MHT will create a training program for local governments grappling with sea-level rise and storm surge issues in historic areas, using the Annapolis planning project as a model.

Be sure to check out the attached video that briefly discusses a world map showing the "world following 260-Foot sea level rise."

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