Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Southern Maine Shoreline: A Brief History

Greg Berman, Woods Hole Sea Grant and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension

This talk was about the dynamics of the water’s edge where sea meets land, beginning with a review of geologic history from the Ice Age to the present. Sea level (and thus the location of the shoreline) has always varied, but the rate of sea-level rise now occurring is faster than it has been in thousands of years, the result of melting glaciers and thermal expansion. When sea-level rise is combined with increased storms and flooding, the outlook for Maine tempered by the fact that our coast is still moving upwards slightly. Still, what was once a 100-year flood is now a two or ten year flood. Previous safety codes may not be as protective. About 41% of New England’s shoreline is eroding, compared to 70 to 90% in other areas of country.

Maine has some successful programs to address these issues, including the Southern Maine Beach Profile Monitoring program, the Maine Geological Survey’s beach scoring system, and regulations that take sea-level rise into account, although current planning for a rise of two feet may be underestimating the threat. Other potential strategies include Transfer of Development Rights to shift development densities to other areas, elevating buildings, and allowing for salt marsh migration and accretion. We need to educate the future generations who will continue to address these issues.

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