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Southern ME Report Visualizes Dramatic Climate Impact + Strategies to Address It

Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission Creates Economic Resilience Plan for Coastal York County Using Innovative Technology

“StoryMap” online tool shows dramatic climate impact in the region

Saco, ME…Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) has released a new project that will help coastal Maine communities visualize the future impact of flooding on their towns and help them strategize how to address that impact.

The “StoryMap,” which is an online ArcGIS tool, was created to summarize the results of a study completed by SMPDC as a response to devastating coastal Maine storms. The study identified vulnerabilities to coastal storm impacts and strategies for building economic resilience for the hard hit towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Kittery, Ogunquit, Wells and York. The study, entitled “Economic Resilience Assessment and Plan for Coastal York County,” was completed by SMPDC 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. SMPDC staff recently unveiled the tool in community workshops with community leaders and committee members in the six affected towns.

The ArcGIS “StoryMap” is an innovative technology that translates a substantial amount of information into custom maps that people can easily access without reading a lengthy report.

Workshop presenters SMPDC’s Abbie Sherwin (pictured), Senior Planner and Coastal Resilience Coordinator, and Raegan Young, Special Projects Coordinator, were clear about the bottom line: Young noted,

“Every single community will be impacted - not one place comes out unscathed. That means we have an opportunity to work together on this.” Sherwin said, “We want this data to be used by communities to drive projects to address sea level rise.”

The response was very positive with workshop participants eager to work with SMPDC. Community Planner Eli Rubin of Kennebunkport noted, “Amazing, powerful tool. So proud of this work that SMPDC has done. This shows how regional government makes an impact.”

Bonnie Pothier, the York County Regional Representative for Senator Angus King, was also enthusiastic, “Some of the maps are jaw droppingly captivating - it shows people ‘this is coming our way.’ To be able to pull up data is incredibly impressive. You’ve put something tangible in front of us that will be shared at the highest levels of government.”

Paul Schumacher, Executive Director of SMPDC, 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. When you look at the mapping, there is a significant impact on low lying marshes.”

The assessment uses two flooding scenarios; storm surge combined with 1.6 feet of sea level rise and 3 feet of sea level rise. The report quantified both 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.

Economic resilience is defined by experts as the ability to evaluate the risk to economic assets; to anticipate, withstand and to avoid or recover quickly from shock; and to build capacity for the future.

The Economic Resilience Plan includes some overarching strategies for public and private action:

  • develop financing mechanisms to fund resilience actions

  • strengthen infrastructure

  • increase preparedness for responding to extreme weather

  • direct development away from vulnerable areas

  • restore and support natural systems

  • support the business community to prepare for and increase resilience to coastal storm events and climate change

Second online tool

In addition to the StoryMap tool, SMPDC 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


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