Municipal Adaptations to Create Resilient Beach Communities in Southern Maine: The Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools Project

Created: 12/18/2010 - Updated: 10/28/2021

Summary

The Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission and Maine Geological Survey partnered to advance adaptation planning in coastal communities with respect to climate change and sea level rise. The Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools (CHRT) Project aimed to improve municipal resiliency to flooding, sea level rise, and storm surge by developing high quality, localized climate data and projections and then meeting with communities to talk through the information and identify adaptation options.

Background

The Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC; formerly known as the Regional Planning Commission) is a council of governments that serves 39 municipalities, providing planning, economic development, and technical assistance. One of the SMPDC’s goals is to facilitate local and regional responses to issues, most recently sea level rise and coastal storms and hazards. Events such as the 2007 Patriot’s Day storm demonstrated the vulnerability of many communities throughout New England to beach erosion and flooding. The Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools (CHRT) Project was a partnership between the SMPDC and the Maine Geological Survey that aimed to improve municipal resiliency to flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise.

Implementation

The CHRT Project, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was a multi-year effort to provide local decision makers with information regarding sea level rise and coastal storms and hazards. The project aimed to improve municipal resiliency to flooding, sea level rise, and storm surge by developing high quality, localized climate data and projections and then meeting with communities to talk through the information and identify adaptation options.

The project started in 2008 by encouraging four communities (Scarborough, Saco, Biddeford, and Old Orchard Beach) in Maine to work on developing adaptation strategies for sea level rise, and expanded to include engagement with over 40 of Maine’s coastal communities. As a result of this project, many towns implemented adaptation actions including establishing floodplain and shoreline zoning ordinances, developing shore and harbor plans, and conducting vulnerability assessments. For example, York integrated adaptation to sea level rise into their comprehensive plan, and the Town of Vinalhaven received a Coastal Community Grant to assess the vulnerability of their Downstreet Business District to coastal flooding.

The biggest barriers to implementation included political and state will and funding, although numerous municipalities continued to move forward with adaptation planning regardless. Recent changes in the state government indicate a shift towards encouraging more climate-informed planning.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The CHRT Project set up a transferrable methodology for engaging at the municipal level, and has also been adapted to regional level planning. As part of the project, a step-by-step resiliency planning approach was created in order to allow municipalities to go through the process on their own if they preferred. The CHRT Project sparked many other adaptation planning efforts in the state, including the development of the Maine Flood Resilience Checklist, which significantly helped to expand municipal resiliency planning.

Lessons learned from the project comprise:

  • Include a state climate expert (e.g., Maine Geological Survey) to provide technical assistance, regional planner (i.e. someone who works with the community on a regular basis), and a municipal champion (e.g., council member, town planner, conservation commission) in the project team.
  • Generate state-level climate data (e.g., sea level rise mapping, marsh migration maps, coastal erosion trends) but tailor information to each community during engagements
  • Refer to previous local climate hazards information to help communities identify adaptation options and create transferrable lessons.
  • State level resiliency grants made implementation of the adaptation projects possible.  

Status

Information collected through interviews and source materials. Last updated 8/21.

Project File (s)

Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission York Maine Comprehensive Plan Presentation by J. T. Lockman, Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission

Citation

Gregg, R. M. (2020). Municipal Adaptations to Create Resilient Beach Communities in Southern Maine: The Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools Project [Case study on a project of the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission and Maine Geological Survey]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated July 2020)

Project Documents

Town of Vinalhaven- Coastal Flooding Vulnerability Study of the Downstreet Business District.pdf

Project Contact(s)

Founded in 1964, in response to an identified need for a coordinated effort for economic development and resource management, SMPDC has been conducting economic development, environmental, land use and transportation planning and providing technical assistance to the municipalities in the region for over 45 years. SMPDC has recently changed its name (formerly Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission) to reflect the Commissions’ expanded role in community development, housing and brownfields redevelopment.

Keywords

Sector Addressed
Land Use Planning
Transportation / Infrastructure
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Erosion
Flooding
Infrastructure damage
Sea level rise
Water temperature
Climate Type
Temperate
Timeframe
Ongoing
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Create/enhance resources and tools
Governance and Policy
Habitat/Biome Type
Marine
Aquatic
Effort Stage
In progress

Related Resources

Adaptation Phase
Awareness
Assessment
Planning
Implementation
Integration/Mainstream
Evaluation
Sharing Lessons
Sector Addressed
Biodiversity
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Culture/communities
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Fisheries
Land Use Planning
Policy
Research
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
Wildlife
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