Here in South Portland, we are a coastal community tied culturally, environmentally, and economically to our waterfront. For as long as we can remember, our waterfront has been a source of recreation, economy, and transportation and we need to prepare for the fact that our waterfront is changing. Due to climate change, we are facing more frequent precipitation, storm surges and flooding. Our sea level is rising, compounding this flooding and as a result, our shorelines are eroding. To effectively adapt to these changes and mitigate the severity of future coastal climate hazards, we need to take action.

Willard Beach sand dunes are protected through a beach management initiative. Drew Johnson photo/Press Herald

One Climate Future, our joint climate action and adaptation plan with the city of Portland, outlines strategies to build the coastal resilience of South Portland’s landscapes, infrastructure and community to prepare for this future.

Coastal resilience means strengthening the ability of our community to withstand and bounce back after a climate event such as a major storm. Planning and preparing for these events will minimize the detrimental effect they have on our communities and ecosystems, leaving us stronger and more resilient to change.

Coffee and Climate: Coastal resilience

This month’s Coffee and Climate, a virtual monthly event dedicated to exploring sustainability topics and encouraging conversation between sustainability staff and city residents, will focus on coastal resilience. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Gayle Bowness and David Reidmiller and Friend’s of Casco Bay’s Sarah Lyman will join our conversation to discuss coastal resilience in our region through both the institute- and community-driven efforts.

Join us with a cup of coffee on Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. to be a part of this community-wide conversation. Register at


Current coastal resilience initiatives in South Portland

In last week’s Sentry article, we talked about Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s’s Ecosystem Investigation Network, a community driven-science effort that gives residents the opportunity to be involved in scientific research and learn how climate change impacts the Gulf of Maine watershed and surrounding communities. In addition to the importance of community involvement, municipalities also need to pursue climate action that builds coastal resilience.

There are many coastal resilience projects in place in South Portland. For example, the High Water Marks that freckle the city build public awareness by identifying historic flooding events and future flood risk. In addition, Willard Beach sand dunes are protected through a proactive beach management initiative, which prevents erosion and ensures the South Portland recreational staple stays put.

There are many different types of coastal resilience efforts at a city-level, ranging from zoning updates to land management and open space planning. In the new year, there are several coastal resilience measures on the horizon. Our One Climate Future annual report identifies multiple upcoming projects that will contribute to South Portland’s coastal resilience, such as mapping climate vulnerabilities to determine the best way to adapt to the effects of climate change and a project to restore the degraded shoreline in Hinckley Park.

All of these projects and efforts combine to make South Portland an educated, well-prepared city in the face of coastal climate threats.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram and Facebook @soposustainability. Mia Ambroiggio is a Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps fellow serving with the South Portland Sustainability Office. She can be reached at

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