The Maine Climate Council recently chose eight communities to participate in a pilot project for climate resilience planning. This project, which focuses on three areas of the state, is designed to test and further develop a consistent climate plan for the entire Pine Tree State. If successful, the Maine Climate Council – which is funding the program with a $125,000 grant – will expand the program to all municipalities as a part of Maine Won’t Wait, a four-year climate action plan.
Each community was picked by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Each location will develop models to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Currently, programs across the state are using various models and technologies: this project will streamline all the processes into the best one. The participating communities are Windham, Bridgton (both within the Greater Portland area), Harpswell, Phippsburg and West Bath on the Midcoast, and Caribou, Washburn, and Fort Fairfield in northern Maine. Groups such as the Nature Conservancy, the University of Southern Maine, and the New England Environmental Finance Center are co-sponsoring the effort.
“With increasing storm events, droughts and rising sea levels, Maine’s climate action plan calls for empowering communities to help them become more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” said Hannah Pingree, co-Chair of the Maine Climate Council and director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.
The planning project will focus on creating official sea-level rise projections, strengthening public health monitoring, and creating how-to guides on adding climate change to land-use and building planning. Education about climate change is a key focus as well. With a tide coastline (one that includes all inlets and bays) of more than 3,000 miles, sea-level rise is a high priority for the state. This is of particular importance for the city of Bath, a low-lying coastal town where the ocean is already threatening businesses along the city’s two main commercial streets. Known as the City of Ships, Bath now has a one-in-four chance of a major flood in the next 30 years, something that could submerge homes, affect sites that manage hazardous waste, flood important museums, and destroy businesses. Bath already has the highest property value losses in Maine caused by rising water.
This new resiliency project incorporates the impact on inland communities as well.
“Inland communities need support to plan for climate change impacts they are already seeing, like increased tick activity, flooding of inland waterways and degraded water quality,” Linda LaCroix, community development director for Bridgton; Gretchen Anderson, Windham’s Sustainability Coordinator, and Sara Mills-Knapp, Portland’s Sustainability Program Director said in a statement to the press.
Since the Maine Won’t Wait launch in December, the state has moved forward on numerous sustainability initiatives alongside climate resiliency planning including a Forest Carbon Task Force, clean transportation roadmaps, advancements in the availability of clean energy jobs, and legislation to phase out the use of super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons and increase appliance efficiency. Governor Janet Mills has committed the state to carbon neutrality by 2045. She also hopes to double clean energy jobs by the end of the decade through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. This plan is a part of the $4.5 million the state received from the American Recovery Plan and is designed to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic and revitalize aging infrastructure.
Ensuring statewide, effective contingency plans for the effects of climate change is a vital part of keeping Maine’s economy and population healthy. With a $70 million loss in property value already due to rising waters, climate resiliency planning is critical for the future of the state.