SOUTH PORTLAND — With help from the Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry, the city will create an interactive, web-based map to assess how vulnerable its coast is to flooding.
Last week, DACF announced it awarded nearly $270,000 to six Coastal Community Grant Program projects throughout the state. Just over $50,000 will be put towards South Portland’s Vulnerability Assessment Mapping, which is estimated to cost around $66,000, according to Sustainability Program Coordinator Lucy Brennan.
This year’s grants, awarded and administered by DACF’s Municipal Planning Assistance Program, focus on efforts to “reduce flood damage to municipal infrastructure, restore fisheries habitat, protect working waterfronts, and increase the climate resiliency of coastal downtowns,” the department said.
Each project involves regional or local partnerships, with each grantee providing a minimum of 25 percent in matching funds or services, according to a news release from DACF. The grants are made possible by the Maine Coastal Program of the Department of Marine Resources, which provides funding through Maine’s federal coastal zone management award from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The awards this year range from $15,000-$62,000.
The city map, which the Sustainability Office expects to update and maintain for a minimum of five years, will bring together information related to historical flooding events, sea-level rise and storm projections, economic and social vulnerability, and critical infrastructure.
Brennan said the map will be used to help form an action and adaptation plan, which the city is partnering with Portland to develop. Both cities have adopted aggressive climate goals, one of which is to transition municipal operations to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2040, and another to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
“We’re really looking forward to helping visualize what the impacts of climate change are going to be,” Brennan said Tuesday. “We haven’t seen much flood risk to the degree of other towns around us, so South Portland is a unique and opportune place to look at how climate change is impacting risk to coastal communities.”
The map will also help with the City Council’s goal of a waterfront master plan, by providing better flood-related data for coastal areas, she said, and aid in the city’s emergency planning efforts by displaying data about the vulnerability of emergency evacuation routes and critical infrastructure.
Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission, and Greater Portland Council of Governments will help create the map. Once completed, city staff and residents will be able to view map layers and select their viewing area/zoom level to better understand the risks posed by coastal hazards.
“We’re really lucky to be continuing work with (these partners),” Brennan said. “They’ve been instrumental through the adaptation process. … It’s such a fun meeting of the minds when we all get together.”
Some of the components will be accessible on the “community-facing side” of the map, Brennan said, while some will be designed to be used internally for city planning processes.
Ruta Dzenis, the senior planner of DACF’s Municipal Planning Assistance Program, said the Coastal Community Grants are an important element of the program’s mission “to foster innovative and effective approaches to land use management by providing technical and financial assistance to Maine municipalities.”
“This is the ninth round of Coastal Community Grants, which have provided $1.7 million for 65 projects in coastal Maine since 2012,” Dzenis said in a prepared statement.