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Anticipatory Planning for Sea-Level Rise Along the Coast of Maine

Anticipatory Planning for Sea-Level Rise Along the Coast of Maine (PDF, 246 pp., 7.0 MB) constitutes Maine's first systematic assessment of its vulnerability to a change in shoreline position as a result of accelerated sea-level rise associated with global climate change. The report was prepared as a State-University cooperative project by the Marine Law Institute of the University of Maine School of Law, the Maine Geological Survey, and the Maine State Planning Office. Preparation of the report was funded by a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The Conclusions and Recommendations section from the report's Executive Summary (PDF, 27 pp., 470 kb) is available following the Table of Contents. You may download the entire report or individual chapters below.

For additional reports focused on the implications of rising sea level, go to More Sea Level Rise Reports.


Table of Contents

Executive Summary (PDF, 27 pp., 470 kb)

Chapter 1 - Planning for Sea-Level Rise(PDF, 16 pp., 186 kb)

Chapter 2 - Vulnerability of Maine Sites to Accelerated Sea-Level Rise (PDF, 48 pp., 3.5 MB)

Chapter 3 - Case Study: Camp Ellis/Ferry Beach (PDF, 12 pp., 2.4 MB)

Chapter 4 - Costs and Benefits of Selected Policy Response Options (PDF, 18 pp., 83 kb)

Chapter 5 - Responsiveness of Existing State and Federal Laws (PDF, 38 pp., 171 kb)

Chapter 6 - Legal Considerations for Maine's Policy Response (PDF, 29 pp., 129 kb)

Chapter 7 - Preliminary Adaptive Response Strategy (PDF, 14 pp., 63 kb)

Appendix A - Maine's Laws Related to Accelerated Sea-Level Rise (PDF, 18 pp., 103 kb)

Appendix B - Selected State/Regional Policy Responses (PDF, 18 pp., 106 kb)

Appendix C - Background Information on the Casco Bay/Saco Bay Region (PDF, 8 pp., 89 kb)

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Conclusions and Recommendations

The key premises underlying the recommendation are that the state should:

In Chapter Seven, the report recommends three different types of actions:

  1. concrete anticipatory policies and design standards to guide public investment in buildings, roads and similar infrastructure;
  2. specific planning and regulatory policies; and
  3. longer range strategic assessment, research and educational actions. The specific recommendations, developed in more detail throughout the report, are summarized as follows:

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Anticipatory Policies and Design Standards

1. Review all new coastal public works projects to determine if minor, cost-effective changes can be made in design or siting to accommodate a changed shoreline position or more intense storms;

2. Discourage an irreversible commitment of public resources for new infrastructure or structures in areas likely to be affected by accelerated sea-level rise, except as necessary to support continued economic viability and efficient functioning of water-dependent uses;

3. Increase the amount of publicly-owned or controlled upland area adjacent to public waterfront access areas to allow for landward movement;

4. Expand coastal nature preserves and acquire key undeveloped coastal wetlands and adjacent conservation areas to provide sufficient upland buffer areas for wetland migration;

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Planning and Regulatory Policies

5. Halt attempts to stabilize the shoreline within or adjacent to the soft coasts and maintain/restore the ability for coastal sand dune systems, coastal wetlands and eroding bluffs to migrate inland.

6. Along all soft coasts, establish setbacks for all structures (including walls and bulkheads) based on projected shoreline position assuming a 100 cm rise in sea level over the next century to protect the natural systems.

7. As a limited exception to #6, in those areas expected to remain stable over the next 100 years assuming a continuation of historic sea-level rise, allow construction of new, small, easily-movable structures (excluding seawalls or bulkheads) built at low densities adjacent to sand beaches or marshes on the condition that they be removed if they begin to interfere with coastal processes.

8. As a limited exception to #6, allow new structures for functionally water-dependent uses which meet certain performance standards.

9. Treat existing development within the area threatened by erosion or inundation from a sea-level rise of 100 cm over the next century as non-conforming structures, prohibit expansion or intensification of use, but allow ordinary maintenance and repair so long as not damaged by more than 50 percent of its value. To the extent legally feasible, require the owner to remove the structure if it is damaged by more than 50 percent of its value, if the structure becomes located on public land, or becomes a public nuisance.

10. On any site unlikely to be affected by a 100 cm rise but likely to affected by a 100 to 200 cm rise over the next century, allow new subdivision development only if it meets performance standards for cluster development designed to minimize the costs of protection.

11. Supplement State regulatory procedures by encouraging/requiring other agencies and municipalities to consider the probability of future increased rates of sea-level rise in making investment, development and permitting decisions.

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Strategic Assessment, Research, and Educational Actions

12. Designate one State agency as the lead agency for monitoring issues associated with global climate change and sea-level rise.

13. The lead State agency and cooperating State agencies should undertake additional research to document coastal erosion and to determine how revised global or regional projects of particular impacts of global climate change may affect Maine.

14. Undertake a substantial education effort aimed at local officials, code enforcement officers, other State agencies, current and potential coastal landowners and the general public to focus on the hazards of coastal erosion and inundation, possible impacts of accelerated sea-level rise, the costs of engineered "solutions" and the benefits of conserving the soft coasts as a resilient natural system.

15. As funding permits, undertake supplemental studies on related impacts, specifically including the impacts of coastal flooding/storm surges and salinization/saltwater intrusion with accelerated sea-level rise. In addition, continue to assess policy response options, particularly rolling easements or other market-based approaches, to supplement the use of regulatory setbacks.

The study makes the most detailed recommendations with regard to modification of regulatory strategies. However, researchers also recommend additional evaluation of policy options, including market-based approaches such as the acquisition of rolling easements, to facilitate planning for even longer time frames (beyond 100 years) or higher than projected sea-level rise (greater than 100 cm. by 2100).

There are opportunities for the State to demonstrate leadership in non-regulatory spheres in preparing for the possibility of an accelerated rate of sea-level rise. For example, it should illustrate sound economic analysis by incorporating an awareness of sea-level rise projections into its decisions about public works projects, capital investments, public waterfront access siting, and acquisition of conservation areas.

State agencies should also provide leadership through the development and transfer of technical information. Maine Geological Survey and other State agencies should continue to monitor national global climate change projections, analyze the implications of national projections for the State of Maine, and provide technical assistance to municipalities about coastal erosion, historic rates of sea-level rise, and local impacts of projected accelerated rates of change.

The State should also undertake a widespread public education effort to emphasize the non-static nature of the shoreline and the benefits to other shoreline owners, the community and the State of protecting the ability of natural systems to adjust to changes in shoreline position. It is particularly critical to convey information about anticipated shoreline change, coastal processes, and related regulatory constraints to current and potential coastal landowners so that they do not harbor any unrealistic expectations about being able to interfere with natural coastal processes.

Finally, it is important for the State to continue to be an active participant in anticipatory planning for sea-level rise and global climate change. For example, the State should contribute to efforts to mitigate the global and local impacts of greenhouse gasses by participating in appropriate emission reduction efforts. Through a designated lead agency, the State should also keep abreast of scientific developments and evolving legal tools. It should plan to revisit its adaptive response strategy on a periodic basis, perhaps on a ten year schedule. This iterative approach will allow the State to incorporate evolving scientific information, evaluate emerging legal tools, and refine its approach based on the best information available at that time.

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This document has been reviewed in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency peer and administrative review policies and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. Please send comments to James G. Titus, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. 20460.

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