Ten Casco Bay coastal communities will be working together to prepare for the environmental, social and economic impacts of flooding caused by the climate crisis.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has announced it has awarded the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) $250,000 for the regional initiative. GPCOG has raised an additional $250,000 in matching funds from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), foundation grants and in-kind donations from municipalities.
The two-year project aims to engage people whose livelihoods are affected by coastal flooding and help community volunteers, municipal staff, elected officials and community leaders plan for nature-based solutions to flooding. Participants will learn about data collection and analysis, research and best practices so they can develop projects that are ready to be designed.
“Now is the time to start planning for the solutions that will ensure our coast can be economically, environmentally, and socially resilient to current and future impacts,” said Sara Mills-Knapp, Sustainability Program Manager at GPCOG. “We know that nature-based solutions to flooding are essential to protecting habitats and communities, and GPCOG looks forward to supporting our municipalities in this important long-term planning effort.”
"The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant will bring much needed resources to Maine's coastal communities, supporting them in planning for climate impacts and incorporating nature-based solutions," said Gayle Bowness, Municipal Climate Action Program Manager for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
“GMRI is thrilled to be a partner on this project with GPCOG, bringing climate science and community engagement expertise to the regional planning process," Browness said.
Natural solutions harness the power of nature to act as an effective defense system against flooding. Examples in Maine are salt-marsh restoration, rain gardens, parks and open spaces, beach dune restoration and shoreline protection using natural materials. Natural solutions can be more sustainable and less expensive than hard infrastructure, such as sea walls.
The municipalities involved in the project include Freeport, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Portland, South Portland, Chebeague Island and Long Island. The Casco Bay watershed, comprise almost 1,000 square miles of land and host 20 percent of the state’s population.
The Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission has been running a similar program in York County. GPCOG will be building off that initiative.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on Thursday announced that GPCOG was among the grant recipients of the 2021 National Coastal Resilience Fund.
The fund nationally will invest $39.5 million in 49 projects designed to strengthen natural infrastructure—the landscapes that help absorb the impacts of storms and floods—to protect coastal communities and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. The 2021 grants will advance regionally identified priorities and innovative approaches in 28 states and territories.
GPCOG is a regional planning agency funded by grants and 25 dues-paying member municipalities. Its mission is to help the region adapt and thrive in a world that is quickly changing.