Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Adapting to Changes on Maine's Coast

Recommendations from the report, “People and Nature Adapting to a Changing Climate”

Malcolm Burson, ME Department of Environmental Protection

More than 80 stakeholders representing a diversity of interests were involved in producing this 2010 report. The Maine Legislature charged the group with developing preliminary recommendations for adapting to climate change.

A section of the report deals specifically with the coastal environment. Issues include flooding, beach and marsh migration, bluff erosion, public lands, infrastructure, salt water intrusion, stormwater, need for LiDAR mapping, downstream impacts of flooding in upland areas of wetlands.

We need to acknowledge and plan for the changes that we know are happening now, if we want communities to be sustainable. Reducing risk by armoring or elevating does not address all concerns – natural systems must also be sustainable. Local assessments are needed, led by local communities, especially since state and federal actions may be limited in the future.

Resiliency means our piers and harbors, water management, local roads and bridges, and sewage treatment plants need supplemental generators for back-up power and elevation above water level. State-owned water infrastructure and local roads need vulnerability assessments, as do critical habitats such as those for migratory birds.

We face some tough choices:

    • Can we balance private property rights with protection of natural systems?
    • How can municipalities pay for vulnerability assessments?
    • Are emergency services adequate?
    • Are there positive opportunities from climate change?
    • Do we have the right tools?
    • Are current laws responsive to change?

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