Move back to avoid the hazard

Avoiding existing or potential hazards as much as possible is usually a property owner's most efficient and cost-effective response. This is especially true when siting new development, as structures can be built as far away (landward) from the hazard as possible.

To ensure safety of an existing structure that is being threatened by erosion or flooding, a property owner can move up or move back:

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. 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, consider moving back to avoid some hazards and relocate structures outside of a mapped flood zone. Building standards are extremely restrictive in the "V-Zone" and will be less restrictive if a structure is moved back to the "A-Zone."

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 regulatory officials. Begin by working with your local code enforcement office to determine if your property is in a mapped flood zone and if so, what building requirements apply. Individuals experienced with coastal regulations may not need to consult officials in all cases; however, if in doubt seek regulatory advice before proceeding with a project.

2) Obtain an environmental assessment from a certified engineer or other qualified professional with expertise in coastal geology. In most cases local, state, and/or federal regulators can help direct you to the best professional discipline to assist with your specific project. Sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.

3) Evaluate your risk. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to shoreline erosion, as well as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

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, or if moving a structure may affect an abutter’s “viewshed,” consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to 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 may lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.

6) Need a local permit? Share plans with local code enforcement in order to determine what, if any, town ordinances may need to be followed when moving structures. Local shoreland zoning requirements will determine the acceptable location(s) for structures.

7) Need a state permit? 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 such as a sand dune, or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act, a state 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 may be required. Alterations to a development or a lot within a development permitted under the Site Location of Development Act may require the revision or amendment of the development’s permit.

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

9) Hire qualified contractors who are experienced with the best practices associated with construction in or adjacent to natural resources.