Ten coastal communities unite to defend against flooding due to climate change


Ten communities in Casco Bay are coming together to develop defenses against coastal flooding caused by climate change.

City employees are measuring and recording the water depth when the Portland Pier was flooded at high tide in Portland on March 22, 2019. At this point, they said the water level was 24 inches high. depth on the pier. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer

Over the next two years, the cities of Freeport, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Portland, South Portland, Chebeague Island and Long Island will invest half a million dollars in projects that harness the power of nature. to defend against flooding. .

Solutions could include restoring salt marshes and beach dunes, creating rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff and landscaping to reduce flooding and runoff, and protecting shorelines using materials. natural rather than expensive dikes.

Funding will be provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which announced this week that it has awarded $ 250,000 to the Greater Portland Council of Governments for the regional initiative. The council raised an additional $ 250,000 in matching funds from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, foundation grants and donations from municipalities.

“Now is the time to start planning the solutions that will ensure our coast can be economically, environmentally and socially resilient to current and future impacts,” said Sara Mills-Knapp, the council’s sustainability program manager, in a statement. . “We know that natural solutions to flooding are essential to protect habitats and communities, and the GPCOG looks forward to supporting our municipalities in this important long-term planning effort. “

Similar planning for sea level rise and storm surge has been undertaken by the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission on behalf of the towns of Kennebunk, Wells and York. The cities released their final report in July.

The assessment found that in the three cities, a total of 3,568 plots and over $ 645 million in land value are at risk if sea level rises only 1.6 feet – the level expected in the Maine by 2050. The report recommends that cities take action now. and start making plans to prepare for flooding.

“Coastal flooding and sea level rise pose significant threats to communities in southern Maine, where the region’s identity, economy and people are inextricably linked, dependent and concentrated along its beautiful coastline, ”the report says. “Rising sea levels and increasingly frequent and violent storms caused by climate change will exacerbate the vulnerability of cities, exposing people, property, economy and natural resources to flood risk. increased. “

The council’s project, which will take two years, will attempt to involve people whose livelihoods are affected by coastal flooding. Participants will learn about data collection, analysis and research. The Casco Bay watershed comprises nearly 1,000 square miles of land and is home to 20 percent of the state’s population.

The $ 250,000 allocated to the GPCOG will come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Coast Resilience Fund 2021 of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Nationally, the fund will distribute $ 39.5 million to 49 projects in 28 states and territories nationwide, funds that will be used to protect coastal communities.

GPCOG is a regional planning agency funded by grants and 25 contributing member communities.

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