SWRPC’s 2023 Fall Meeting
- October 31, 2023
On Tuesday, October 10, the Southwest Region Planning Commission hosted its 2023 Fall Meeting at Delegation Hall in the Historic Cheshire County Courthouse. The featured topic was Weathering the Storm: Towards Local Climate Resilience in the Monadnock Region. With the past summer’s flooding still fresh in our minds, the intent is to inspire proactive responses to help our Region better prepare for future hazards of this nature.
The meeting began with the SWRPC director’s team providing a staff report. J. B. Mack, Assistant Director, discussed the 2025-2034 Ten Year Transportation Plan update process. Recommendations from SWRPC include improvements and traffic calming treatments on a stretch of NH Route 10 in Swanzey that is undergoing significant development activity, potential improvements to Base Hill Road, as well as modifications to the Rt. 12/Rt 32 intersection in Keene.
Todd Horner, Assistant Director, recapped the sixth annual Radically Rural summit which took place in Keene on September 27 and 28. The conference, which SWRPC was involved in planning, brought people together from across the country to discuss how we can help position rural communities for success in a rapidly changing world. Todd discussed one session which focused on Resident Owned Communities (ROCs), which refer to neighborhoods of manufactured homes that are owned by homeowner cooperatives as opposed to corporate landlords. ROCs offer many benefits, including control of monthly lot rent, community repairs and improvement, and an enhanced sense of community.
Tim Murphy, Executive Director, provided some context on the Monadnock Region’s susceptibility to extreme weather events. He referenced data to illustrate both the increase in federal disaster declarations in southwest New Hampshire over time, as well as the yearly cost of such events. Tim also referred to Monadnock Region Future: A Plan for Southwest New Hampshire, which offers a policy framework for conceptualizing resiliency planning. Tim ended his remarks by introducing the evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Eshan Dave, who joined us from the University of New Hampshire Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Dr. Dave’s remarks focused on flooding as the major climate change threat to transportation assets in the Monadnock Region. He provided an overview of the UNH department’s efforts to study infrastructure vulnerability to flooding and gave examples of tools used to study at-risk areas. Dr. Dave offered suggestions to communities that are facing these risks and outlined strategies that can be followed to minimize impacts from severe weather. Additionally, he provided some case studies of sites within the Seacoast region where his analysis reveals assets that are highly vulnerable to flooding risks. Dr. Dave provided the group with several approaches to remediate these risks that follow the framework of the guidelines he illustrated earlier.
Following his remarks, Dr. Dave joined a panel discussion with several Monadnock Region stakeholders who provided a local perspective on climate resilience. Other panelists included Dori Drachman (Community Power Committee) and Danica Melone (Town Planner) of Peterborough, Michael Branley (Town Administrator) of Swanzey, and Kürt Blomquist (Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director) of Keene. The panel informed the audience about how local communities have responded to previous climate events and how they are preparing for future impacts. Discussion was prompted by a variety of questions from the audience, including the intimidating and complex consideration: how can a small community be proactive in resiliency planning considering their limited budget? One strategy that was identified might be to engage with SWRPC to discuss Hazard Mitigation Plan updates, which can help towns better identify and understand their vulnerable assets. While difficult, navigating these issues will help the Monadnock Region increase its climate resiliency to better prepare for future hazards.
For more information about SWRPC’s Fall Commission Meeting, please reach out to Jason Cooper at [email protected] or (603)357-0557. To learn more about SWRPC’s Hazard Mitigation Planning Program, please contact Henry Underwood at [email protected] or (603)357-0557.