Abbie Sherwin of Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission said the agency’s new tool “StoryMap” will help communities plan for sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. Courtesy Photo

Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission has released a couple of new tools designed to help coastal Maine communities visualize the future impact of flooding on their towns and help them address it.

The “StoryMap,” an online ArcGIS tool, was created to summarize the results of a study completed by the commission as a response to devastating coastal Maine storms.

The study, “Economic Resilience and Assessment Plan for Coastal York County” identified vulnerabilities to coastal storm impacts and strategies for building economic resilience in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Kittery, Ogunquit, Wells and York.

The assessment uses two flooding scenarios; storm surge combined with 1.6 feet of sea level rise and 3 feet of sea level rise, according to the commission.  The report looked at the tourism and economic contribution of the towns; identified infrastructure at risk and options for upgrades; and identified resilience strategies for businesses and municipalities.

Examples of potential risks included loss of power, loss of tourism, loss of assessed property values, and beach erosion which could result in loss of revenue from beach passes and beach parking fees, SMPDC staff said in a news release.

Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission staff recently unveiled the ArcGIS “StoryMap” tool in workshops with community leaders and committee members in the six affected towns. The tool translates information into custom maps that people can access without reading a lengthy report.


Workshop presenters Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission’s Abbie Sherwin, senior planner and coastal resilience coordinator, and Raegan Young, special projects coordinator, were clear about the bottom line

“Every single community will be impacted – not one place comes out unscathed. That means we have an opportunity to work together on this,” said Young.

“We want this data to be used by communities to drive projects to address sea level rise,” said Sherwin.

Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission Director Paul Schumacher cautioned against the perception that it is only the residents and businesses on the coast that will be impacted by climate change, “Sometimes there is more impact inland,” he said. “When you look at the mapping, there is a significant impact on low lying marshes.”

The Economic Resilience Plan includes strategies for public and private action like developing financing mechanisms to fund resilience; strengthen infrastructure increase preparedness for responding to extreme weather; direct development away from vulnerable areas; restore and support natural systems and support the business community to prepare for and increase resilience to coastal storm events and climate change.

The commission also developed a GIS web mapping application – a user driven database of information that provides more detail and project findings for any particular location in the six towns.

To read the plan and view the StoryMap, visit

The study was completed by the commission with support from GEI Consultants and R. Bouvier Consulting and was funded by the US Economic Development Administration. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry also contributed funding for development of the StoryMap.