Incorporating Climate Change into the Casco Bay Estuary PartnershipBy:
October 05, 2009
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Project Summary / Overview
In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership (CBEP) as one of eight projects to support as part of the Climate Ready Estuaries Program, whose goal is to build local adaptive capacity to climate change. Through a technical assistance grant, CBEP is planning to develop an outreach plan that will target local decision makers and stakeholders and help inform the development of a climate change adaptation plan for the Casco Bay estuary.
The primary goals of this project are to develop an outreach plan that incorporates up-to-date and thorough regional climate change information and encourages local decision makers to incorporate climate change considerations into existing and future policies. Neither the original Casco Bay Plan (1996) nor the update (2006) mention climate change, but CBEP has recently started integrating climate change considerations into their program. A primary goal for CBEP is to serve as a critical source of climate change information in the Casco Bay region and beyond.
This project originated because of perceived threats to the economic and natural resources of Casco Bay, Maine. Climate change impacts of concern include species shifts, harmful algal blooms, flooding and sea level rise, increased storminess, and erosion, and the corresponding effects on the state and local economy, and public health and safety risks. CBEP was able to apply for a technical assistance grant under the Climate Ready Estuaries program to address these concerns. CBEP’s adaptation priorities include delivering sound and useful information on the effects of climate change on the estuary’s natural resources to key local decision makers by:
- collecting information on the local impacts of climate change;
- investigating, synthesizing, and making publicly available the activities of other local groups engaged in adaptation;
- developing outreach materials; and
- encouraging local decision makers to incorporate climate change into current and future policies.
In addition, CBEP is working to incorporate climate change into their general activities, such as habitat protection and restoration. A number of climate-related projects are underway, including the development and creation of:
- local/regional climate scenarios and trends;
- coastal inundation maps;
- vulnerability assessments;
- communication tools to provide local decision makers with reliable and useful information; and
- tools to incorporate the implications of climate change into habitat restoration and protection planning.
CBEP was the recipient of a 2009 technical assistance award under the Climate Ready Estuaries Program, making the primary partner the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CBEP also works with a number of other individuals and groups, including Cameron Wake and Elizabeth Burakowski of the University of New Hampshire, Katherine Hayhoe of Texas Tech, and Chris Watson and Ellen Douglas of UMASS-Boston to develop reports on climate trends and projections in Casco Bay and to map 100-year coastal inundation flooding in the city of Portland. CBEP is also working with Peter Slovinsky of the Maine Geological Survey and other staff to assess the vulnerability of salt marshes and eelgrass beds to sea level rise.
This project is funding-limited, so there is no specific end date. CBEP has encountered some barriers to taking adaptation action, the primary of which is having a small staff (four full-time employees). CBEP typically coordinates with other groups. As such, CBEP is getting support from multiple and varied groups in their adaptation efforts, and is willing to network with new organizations in different regions and sectors.
Project Outcomes and Conclusions
CBEP is still in the planning process for this project, but has engaged in other adaptation actions in their work; for example, they have:
- initiated a coordinated habitat restoration effort and created on-the-ground projects through seed funding, grant writing, and technical support;
- helped protect over 3,000 acres of high value habitat through conservation; and
- brought expertise on marine invasive species and stormwater management in cold climates to Maine and the region through conferences.
CBEP plans to conduct outreach and network with other organizations and agencies to coordinate climate change adaptation activities.