A view of the coastline in Harpswell earlier this summer. Harpswell is one of three coastal towns looking for solutions to sea level rise. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

As sea levels rise, locations in Phippsburg, West Bath and Harpswell all face potential flooding that could impact areas where buildings, roads, or parking areas are now located.

The three towns have been working for almost a year to assess key waterfront areas and decide on the best ways to adapt them to rising waters as Maine’s coastal towns search for solutions to protect residents, properties and working waterfronts.

Garrison Cove in Harpswell, Sabino Landing in West Bath and Acre Lot Wharf in Phippsburg are all at risk, according to Barney Baker of GEI Consultants, who spoke at a Tuesday meeting with the trio of coastal communities.

GEI has proposed boat ramps, walls and road construction that could better equip the areas in the face of rising tides.

The Garrison Cove project would cost around $300,000 and include building a stone wall covered with vegetation, as well as a turnaround for local traffic.

“The town doesn’t own the southwest side of the boat ramp there, so we’d need to get permission from all of those property owners before moving forward,” Harpswell Harbormaster Paul Plummer said. “We’ll likely have to do the project in stages.”


He said the sooner the project can get started, the better. “Rising tides combined with storms are bringing water right up to the road. We need to get started in the next five to ten years.”

One of the town’s big concerns is parking at Garrison Cove. “There’s no designated parking, so people park on the beach. Now that sea level rise is happening, the ocean is going to be coming right up to peoples’ tires,” Plummer said.

“In the project’s entirety, there’s a lot of logistical issues,” he said.

Phippsburg Town Administrator Ross McLellan said GEI Consultants has yet to provide a cost estimate for the project to make Acre Lot Wharf adaptable to climate change and stabilize the shoreline.

“Near Popham Beach there are a lot of properties that are below the current sea level,” said McLellan. “Our main focus is transportation, and ensuring our roads will be passable and that people can access the services they need if the roads flood.”

He said once a working draft for the shoreline project is in place it will be proposed to the select board and be followed by a public hearing.


McLellan also cited access to the wharf for those who work on the waterfront as a major concern.

“The idea is that we need to start planning now — we needed to start planning a few years ago. If we’re not taking steps to secure infrastructure in the next 10 years, we’re going to have a situation where pieces of our infrastructure are no longer available to residents.”

Kristine Poland, town administrator for West Bath, said, “Our primary concern is that we retain access for recreational and commercial use of the waterfront.”

She said the town has had a couple of select board meetings where residents had concerns about property rights and ensuring that the town protects private property owners while still allowing waterfront access to commercial fishermen and shellfish harvesters.

“What we’re looking at is just surveying the area to understand what we own,” Poland said. “It’s not clear what’s public and private, so that’s our first step.”

“We need to be creative in what we look for in funding sources,” said Poland, as all three projects are expected to be costly.

Phippsburg, Harpswell and West Bath officials said they will work with their respective select boards and residents to determine the best solutions to protect their infrastructures from flooding while factoring in property owners’ and taxpayers’ wishes.

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