Ten coastal communities are to develop strategies to help them cope with rising sea levels and stronger storms with the aid of a grant from the National Coastal Resilience Fund. Here, waves crash the shoreline at Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk during a March 2018 storm. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO — A new grant recently awarded to Southern Maine Planning and Development Corporation is designed to help coastal communities cope with impacts of storms and rising sea levels.

Ten municipalities in York and Cumberland counties will work to become more resilient as a result of a new grant awarded by the National Coastal Resilience Fund. Biddeford, Saco, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Old Orchard Beach, along with Scarborough, Kittery, York, Ogunquit, and Wells will collaborate with land trusts, regional conservation organizations and state natural resource agencies in the effort, according to SMPDC.

The grant and matching funds total $266,000. According to SMPDC Senior Planner and Coastal Resilience Coordinator Abbie Sherwin, the two-year project kicks off in the spring. The goal is for the region to be better prepared for impacts of storms and sea level rise.

“While there could eventually be infrastructure-based projects, such as elevating roads and expanding culverts, the effort will identify and address more immediate issues such as land use decisions, municipal policies, and land conservation efforts,” said Sherwin. “This is really about identifying vulnerabilities and teeing up high priority projects that will make the region more resilient to coastal flooding and climate change. This will also position the region to take advantage of future grants from the National Coastal Resilience Fund, focused on implementation.”

Sherwin said the project will focus on assessing resilience needs and socio-economic conditions; assessing coastal impacts and vulnerabilities; creating a working group; identifying and prioritizing resilience strategies and projects; and developing the plan.

“We will be creating the first regional coastal resilience plan in Maine, which will incorporate recommendations from the Maine Climate Action Plan,” Sherwin explained in a news release. “This project will also increase regional coordination, knowledge and capacity and provide a vital road map to the region as we seek to implement steps that will improve Southern Maine’s coastal resiliency.”

Several of the municipalities came together a year ago with SMPDC  to  begin to address coastal resiliency. ”We’ll hone in on sea level rise, tax implications based on storm surge, and assessing energy consumption,” said SMPDC Director of Land Use and Planning Lee Jay Feldman as the 2019 initiative was announced.

The NCRF is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with other government agencies and private corporations.

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