Maine’s seaside communities could benefit from some of nearly $1.5 billion in coastal resiliency grants that are being offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to restore ocean habitats, protect fisheries and prepare for climate change.

The agency’s Climate Ready Coasts initiative targets investment to build infrastructure that will help communities cope with sea level rise and extreme weather events, and to protect marine ecosystems that benefit populations that are most vulnerable to climate impacts.

Maine’s congressional delegation supported the funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“The Climate Ready Coasts initiative is a historic investment in the future of our coasts,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said in a joint statement Wednesday. “Given that Maine has one of the longest coastlines in the country, this funding is welcome and critical to ensuring our most vulnerable communities will be successful for years to come.”

The Mills’ administration is looking for projects that might qualify for grants.

“The state is currently working to identify potential projects for this funding opportunity and we look forward to working to make critical investments in the climate resilience of Maine’s iconic coastline,” said Anthony Ronzio, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation and the Future.

The Climate Ready Coasts initiative includes $207 million in coastal zone management projects intended to increase the acreage of protected and restored estuaries, coral habitats and natural shorelines, according to the initiative’s website. These ecosystems are expected to help decrease damage by coastal hazards to personal property and public infrastructure and resulting economic losses. Funding will be aimed at communities that are most vulnerable to climate impacts and have been underserved in the past.

An additional $491 million in grants will help restore marine and Great Lakes ecosystems, including oyster reefs and river habitats. The projects are expected rebuild productive and sustainable fisheries, contribute to the recovery and conservation of threatened and endangered species, and have socioeconomic benefits for more resilient communities.

It also includes $150 million to remove and prevent further accumulation of marine debris in coastal waterways. It identifies marine debris  as a “pervasive global threat,” with tons of plastic, metal, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, derelict vessels and other lost or discarded items clogging coastal environments.

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