Session 4 – Coastal Resilience

COVID-19 Protocols – As the main conference organizer, the Mitchell Center is required to have conference attendees follow University of Maine System COVID-19 protocols. Please go to the COVID-19 page for more information.

Morning Session: 8:30AM-10:30AM

Fort Western Room (First Floor, North Wing)

Session Chairs:
Parker Gassett, Maine Sea Grant, University of Maine
Esperanza Stancioff, University of Maine Cooperative Extension/Maine Sea Grant

The preparedness of coastal communities in Maine to major weather and climate threats is being tested by increasing physical and economic damages, social justice implications among mitigation and adaptation choices, and interrelated challenges for community wellbeing. This session brings together exemplary projects and processes for community resilience in Maine. Model approaches for community organizing, information sharing, municipal planning processes, solutions for financing, and case studies on implementation guide the conversation of this session toward replicable local efforts. We invite researchers, public officials, community leaders, and representatives from Maine’s Tribal Nations to share their experiences, insight, and achievements for coastal resilience.

Presenters are indicated in bold font.

8:30AM – 8:50AM
Water quality, StoryMaps, and partnership: Collaborating to support indigenous storytelling in Maine

Michelle de Leon (student)1, Noela Altvater (student)2

  1. University of Maine, Orono, ME
  2. Wabanaki Youth in Science & Washington County Community College, ME

A PowerPoint slide presentation is available for this talk

Community resilience research and practice invite diverse voices to investigate and communicate complex social-ecological issues. Storytelling is an emerging approach to lift marginalized voices and understand problems communities face. For the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, municipal water quality is a thorny issue: many tribal members feel unsafe using their water at home because of harmful chemicals and discoloration, yet this issue remains invisible to many both within and beyond the tribal community. A community-university partnership between Passamaquoddy tribal members and the University of Maine uses storytelling to creatively research and communicate the severity of the municipal water quality issue.

In this presentation, Wabanaki Youth in Science intern Noela Altvater and University of Maine graduate student Michelle de Leon share their experiences and insight on how storytelling has deepened their collaboration and created a communication product that has more potential to affect change in Sipayik than either could have done alone. The storytelling process provided opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as natural resource professionals, to engage in a culturally relevant project which highlights tribal experiences and values with water issues across generations. Noela and Michelle utilized StoryMaps, a multi-media Geographic Information Systems software, to communicate findings about Sipayik’s municipal water quality issue. Their collaboration prioritizes respecting indigenous sovereignty and centering Wabanaki diplomacy to promote community health and social justice. Replicable throughout Maine for tribal and non-tribal communities, storytelling is a powerful tool accessible to many disciplines and cultures seeking to engage diverse perspectives and enhance community resilience.

8:50AM – 9:10AM
Collaboration to Increase Social Resilience in Midcoast Maine

Jeremy Bell1, Victoria Boundy2, Annie Cox3, Kasey Cunningham4, Kristen Grant5, Elizabeth Hertz6, Ruth Indrick7, Eileen Johnson4, Samara Nassor4

  1. The Nature Conservancy, Brunswick, ME
  2. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Portland, ME
  3. Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wells, ME
  4. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
  5. Maine Sea Grant, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  6. Blue Sky Planning Solutions, Augusta, ME
  7. Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Bath, ME

Communities in the Midcoast region, like many communities along Maine’s coast, are vulnerable to impacts of coastal hazards. Geographically, these communities are located on narrow peninsulas, often with a single access roadway. Demographic characteristics of these communities, such as an aging population, older residents living alone, high reliance on natural resource economies, and high levels of self-employment, combine to create a population that is at higher risk from coastal hazards.
Partners from federal, state, NGO, academic and consulting organizations are working with eight communities in Maine’s Midcoast to strengthen social resilience. Central to this vision is looking beyond the physical impacts of coastal hazards and focusing on how these physical impacts pose risks to socially vulnerable populations. The first stage of the project involved conducting focus groups with representatives from emergency management, social service, conservation, and municipal sector organizations. For the second phase, guided by a multisector advisory committee, we developed and conducted a virtual scenario planning exercise to test how organizations from the four sectors collaborate in the region to support socially vulnerable populations impacted by a strong coastal storm. As part of the development of the exercise, we created an asset inventory identifying organizations key to planning for, responding to, and recovering from the impacts of coastal hazards. Participants completed pre- and post- exercise surveys to assess the impact of the scenario exercise and a story map guided breakout groups through the scenario. Following the exercise, the participants reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of their cross-sector cooperation.

9:10AM – 9:30AM
Regional Collaboration for Coastal Resilience in Harpswell, Phippsburg & West Bath

Martha Sheils1, Victoria Boundy2, Chloe Shields1, Allen Kratz3, Kristine Poland4

  1. New England Environmental Finance Center, Cutler Institute, University of Southern Maine, Portand, ME
  2. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
  3. Resilience Works, LLC
  4. Town of West Bath, West Bath, ME

A PowerPoint slide presentation is available for this talk

In 2021, the New England Environmental Finance Center (EFC) and Casco Bay Estuary Partnership (CBEP) partnered with the coastal towns of Harpswell, Phippsburg, and West Bath to help town administrators, staff, and volunteers prepare for the effects of climate change and identify and secure funding for shared resilience priorities. As small, peninsular communities reliant on natural resource economies and home to aging populations, participants sought to better understand climate impacts like sea level rise, storm surge, flooding, and erosion and relevant adaptation strategies and funding sources. Over six months, New England EFC and CBEP piloted a three-part workshop series to identify community assets (physical, ecological, social), understand local climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities, and risks affecting those assets, and brainstorm and prioritize actions that build resilience. Workshops included opportunities to hear directly from community members representing conservation commissions, land trusts, and the shellfishing industry, as well as guest speakers on technical, scientific, planning, and funding-related topics and approaches. In parallel, each community worked through a step-by-step vulnerability and risk assessment tool adapted from the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. This process formed new relationships and established a foundation for regional collaboration, which led the cohort to craft a successful joint proposal for state funding to advance a shared resilience project that positions them to compete for larger federal funds in the future. This effort was one of three pilots sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and informed the development of the new statewide Community Resilience Partnership.

9:30AM – 9:50AM
Developing localized flood projections to support climate solutions in the Gulf of Maine

Hannah Baranes, David Reidmiller, Gayle Bowness
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME

A PowerPoint slide presentation is available for this talk

Building resilience in Maine coastal communities will require localized sea level rise and flooding projections that consider the unique and spatially varying physical properties of the region. Currently, reliable flood projections are limited to the three locations in Maine with long-term tide gauge records (Portland, Bar Harbor, and Eastport); however, flooding is highly variable along Maine’s geomorphically complex coastline, and flood models that include the entire state are not designed to accurately project flooding in regions like the Gulf of Maine, where tides are larger than storm surge (i.e., the rise in water level from storm winds piling water up onshore). Our team is developing a system that can transform state-of-the-art global and regional projections to a more local scale that can be used for community-scale resilience planning in Maine. This work will be integrated with the ongoing coastal flooding citizen science project, where residents contribute observations to formalize local knowledge of where and under what conditions flooding and erosion occur. In the longer term, these localized projections will also contribute to the new NOAA-funded program, Rural Resilience Trainings. The program will bring together current and emerging leaders from coastal rural communities to gain the knowledge, skill, and relationships needed to develop community-driven and data-based action plans.

9:50AM – 10:10AM
Tapping into the Land Use Toolbox to Build Resilience: Model Ordinance Language for Coastal Communities of All Sizes and Capacity Levels

Abbie Sherwin1, Antonia Sohns2

  1. Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, Saco, ME
  2. FB Environmental, Portland, ME

A PowerPoint slide presentation is available for this talk

Municipalities are adept at using land use tools such as zoning and ordinances to encourage appropriate use of land in a locality, as well as protecting the general welfare of community members. Based on a collaborative effort led by Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, FB Environmental, and multiple municipal partners, this presentation outlines opportunities for incorporating coastal resilience measures in existing municipal land use ordinances. These approaches can help communities to gradually relocate away from high hazard areas; ensure that new and redevelopment avoids climate risks; establish development standards for vulnerable infrastructure to tolerate projected climate impacts; and minimize flood and pollution risks with intentional planning for how water moves through the landscape of a community. Featured zoning mechanisms include floodplain management; zoning (including shoreland zoning); subdivision / Site Plan Review (SPR); stormwater management; and coastal overlay zones, each established approaches that can be used to promote coastal resilience by addressing local conditions, hazards, and climate vulnerabilities.

10:10AM – 10:30AM
Island Institute Fellows Program: Past, Current, and Future Roles in Supporting Coastal Resilience

Abby J. Roche (student), Melanie Nash
Island Institute, Rockland, ME

A PowerPoint slide presentation is available for this talk

A signature program of the Island Institute, the Island Institute’s Fellowship Program, places recent graduates in Maine’s coastal and year-round island communities for one to two years to support community development. Commonly, many fellows encounter questions and needs related to coastal resilience in the communities they are placed in as such work is critical for the sustainability, health, and longevity of island and coastal communities. In this session, perspectives related to the fellowship program and coastal resilience will be shared from current and past fellowship experiences as well as future projections. Specifically, current Island Fellow Melanie Nash will represent the 2021-2022 cohort and describe experiences and outlooks on coastal resilience from fellows placed in the island and coastal communities up and down the coast. The challenges, successes, and roles fellows have experienced will be of focus, such as succession planning for sustainability and how to best utilize the resources and capacity of small coastal communities. At the same time, Island Institute staff member Abby Roche will provide a reflection on past fellowships and provide a future projection of the role fellows might have in motivating and supporting community action and the role they may play within the Community Resilience Partnership Program will be considered.