January’s back-to-back coastal storms eroded our coastlines, destroyed family homes and wharves, and swept years of hopes and dreams out to sea.

Even for those of us who work on the impact of climate change on Maine’s coastal communities, these scenes were shocking. There remains no doubt that we need to imagine a different future coast, one where our infrastructure, businesses and homes can withstand storms like these and the forces of climate change.

As an important step in creating this future, Gov. Janet Mills recently announced two important investments that can help us build back higher, stronger and greener.

The first is an additional $5 million for the state’s Community Resilience Partnership (CRP) which will allow 100 communities from across all Maine to receive $50,000 each in grants to implement community priorities developed through a climate resilience planning process.

As an organization that has helped nine Maine communities implement the CRP program, Island Institute knows that these funds can help a community become more resilient.

Take Long Island and Chebeague Island. Both used the funds to conduct groundwater sustainability studies, a crucial step in preserving and maintaining the aquifers on each island. This becomes especially vital as the threats of sea level rise and storm surges from increasingly frequent and intense weather patterns endanger drinking water and the overall community sustainability.


The Cranberry Isles, meanwhile, are using the funds to install a solar array system and a battery power backup for their municipal building. This strategic move ensures a reliable energy source even in the face of impending storms. Beyond just securing critical services, this initiative toward energy resilience serves as a model for sustainable practices within the entire community.

While community planning is important, Maine also needs to make sure that the infrastructure that supports our communities is resilient.

Gov. Mills recognized this when she called for another $50 million for the climate change adaptation fund that will provide critical infrastructure across the state – both coast and inland – that can better withstand a changing climate. This fund, managed by the Maine Department of Transportation, will rebuild roads, culverts, stormwater and wastewater systems, as well as working waterfronts. Upgrading our infrastructure is critical for the future of Maine communities and the inclusion of working waterfronts in this fund is important; working waterfronts were hit particularly hard by these recent storms.

Public funds alone are not enough for waterfront businesses to recover from these storms and prepare for the next. In addition to this funding and leadership from the state, our municipalities, nongovernmental organizations, banks, citizens and businesses also have key roles to play. Nongovernmental organizations, in particular, can move quickly to meet short-term local needs.

In the near term, we know fishing activity will pick up in the spring and working waterfront businesses are looking ahead at how they can make improvements today that allow them operate this summer.

Within a week of the storm, Island Institute was accepting grant applications from working waterfront businesses looking for funds to start their rebuilding efforts and has already provided $75,000 in grants to working waterfronts that employ 150 people and are the connection between the shore and the sea for 520 fishing boats or aquaculturists using these facilities.

In the long term, building resilience along our coast to the impacts of climate change will take years, significant leadership from the state and cooperation between the public sector and private businesses. The funding of the infrastructure adaptation fund, the community resilience partnership and the support for the recovery of privately owned working waterfronts all represent a meaningful down payment on a resilient future for Maine communities.

The response to the storms demonstrates that we can tackle this daunting task together. Help us take a strong step forward; call your legislator to tell them how important it is for our communities to be resilient, ask them to fund these programs.

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