Move back to avoid the hazard

Avoiding existing or potential hazards as much as possible is usually the most efficient and cost-effective response, especially when siting new development.

One of the most effective ways to ensure safety of an existing structure that is being threatened by erosion or landslides is to relocate the structure out of the hazardous area, typically in a landward direction. Although moving back can be very effective in minimizing the hazard, it can be expensive. Costs vary from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, and are based on the existing foundation of the structure, size of the structure, topography and geology, and distance the structure may need to be moved. Consultation with a local contractor is suggested, and local and state permits may be needed. Relocation of a structure can also be constrained by the size of a property and any applicable setbacks, such as from other existing structures or roadways.

As much as is practical with your building considerations, consider moving back to avoid the hazard. Consideration should also be given to significant habitat resources or environmentally sensitive areas, which are usually identified by municipal or state regulations.

Follow the steps below to gain the environmental and regulatory information needed for decision making. The steps are listed in general order although some steps may be conducted concurrently.

1) Contact local, state and/or federal officials to obtain regulatory advice. Individuals experienced with coastal regulations may not need to seek regulatory advice in all cases; however, if in doubt seek advice before proceeding with a project.

2) Obtain an assessment from a certified engineer, landscape architect, or other qualified environmental professional. In most cases, local, state, and/or federal regulators can help identify the best professional discipline to assist with a specific project. And sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.

3) Owners of coastal property along eroding bluffs or near landslide-prone areas should check their insurance coverage to make sure they have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to landslides or shoreline erosion, as well as flood insurance.

4) If moving back involves work below or within 75 feet of Highest Annual Tide (HAT), develop a site stabilization plan. The plan does not need to be prepared by a professional in all cases; however, a good, clear plan can improve the efficiency and timeliness of any permitting that may be required. Good plans also will be beneficial to the construction contractor and can help avoid costly mistakes during the construction process.

5) Be neighborly. If the plan involves work at or near a property boundary, consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to drainage on their property. This consultation is a courtesy at this stage, and not a regulatory mandate, however obtaining “buy in” from abutter(s) can potentially avoid neighbor disputes that lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.

6) Share plans with local code enforcement to determine what, if any, local ordinances apply. Local Shoreland Zoning requirements will determine the acceptable location for structures such as drainage features, catch basins, roads/driveways, paths, etc.

7) If the plan involves alterations within 75 feet of highest annual tide (HAT), within or adjacent to another protected natural resource as defined by the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA), or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act (Site Law), a permit will likely be required. When possible, plan to meet standards of a permit-by-rule to simplify the state regulatory review process; otherwise an individual permit or a site law permit may be required.

8) If the plan involves work below the HAT, and/or in a freshwater wetland or habitat for endangered or threatened species, a federal permit under the Federal Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act may be required. Share the plan with all applicable federal authorities to determine which permits may be necessary.

9) It is good general practice to hire contractors who are experienced with coastal stabilization projects and the implementation of Best Management Practices.