Even when the devastating hurricanes of 2005 -- Katrina, Rita and Wilma -- are not included, flood damage in the U.S. increased sixfold from the early 1900s to 2007, and today averages over $6 billion annually. To defend its 78 coastal communities against rising sea levels and fiercer storms brought on by global warming, Massachusetts kicked off StormSmart Coasts last month. The two-year, state-sponsored pilot project pairs the state Office of Coastal Zone Management with seven seaside municipalities to test safe, economical and practical ways to make them more resilient to the effects of climate change, such as elevating buildings in flood-prone areas, developing disaster plans for storms and prohibiting construction in vulnerable areas. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a suite of regulatory tools, case studies and planning strategies for managing coastal floodplains for all of the communities along Massachusetts's 1,500-mile shoreline. The project's Web site, which was launched last May, already features resources and best practices. The seven municipalities are Boston, Duxbury, Fairmouth, Hull (above), Kingston, Oak Bluffs and Plymouth.