Harpswell, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland get Coastal Community Grants

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AUGUSTA — Harpswell, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland will be able to move forward with environmental projects after being awarded Coastal Community Planning Grants by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The department allocated nearly $167,000 to support six projects that help preserve the coastal economy and provide natural hazard prevention. 

Harpswell was awarded $20,000 to create a long-term flood prevention plan for Basin Point Road, drafted in conjunction with Gorrill Palmer and the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership.

The plan will be geared towards managing potential impacts of coastal flooding and storm surge.

Town Planner Mark Eyerman said the project will be handled like a pilot study, and that Basin Point Road was chosen at the suggestion of the Conservation Commission.

Eyerman said the panel recommended the town survey a public road that could be at high risk for flooding in the face of sea level rise, and Basin Point Road was chosen for both its vulnerability to flooding and high level of use by residents.

He added that another aspect of the project will be to look at mitigating the impact of flooding on local wetlands, since freshwater vegetation can be damaged or die if it is inundated with salt water.

“The goal here is to (see how) the town can work in conjunction with the land trust to alter the road so it remains passable during extreme high tides and storm situations … and do that in a way that is most beneficial to the ponds and wetlands,” Eyerman said.

Cape Elizabeth received $20,500 for its Culvert and Habitat Impact Assessment. The assessment involves surveying 16 of the most significant culverts, as well as the habitat impact and restoration potential at the three major Spurwink Marsh crossings.

In the town’s grant application, Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said she and Public Works Director Robert Malley were inspired to apply after meeting with Jake Aman, the project manager for the Wells National Estuarine Research Preserve.

O’Meara said Aman discussed his work surveying road crossings that may be in need of repair and also have the potential for stream habitat restoration. He also provided aerial photos of crossings in Cape Elizabeth that could be improved. 

Afterward, O’Meara said she and Malley realized several of the culverts adjacent to Spurwink Marsh are old enough to need evaluation. She added that in the original application, Cape Elizabeth proposed surveying 20 of its culverts, but has since reduced the number to 16 at the state’s request.

O’Meara said the state recommended the town consider alternatives to assessing all of the culverts, such as road removal.

South Portland was granted the largest total, more than $54,800 for its Trout Brook Culvert Improvements Project.

Stormwater Coordinator Fred Dillon said the project will build off recommendations given to the city in 2012 from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

That year, the department classified Trout Brook as an “Urban Impaired Stream,” meaning it does not meet state water quality standards due to the impacts of the urban development surrounding it.

The department then drafted the Trout Brook Watershed Management Plan, which suggests improving or restoring fish passage at several of culverts.

The grant funds will allow the city to conduct a study of the culverts and determine what can be done to improve fish habitats. 

“It’s called Trout Brook for a reason,” Dillon said. 

He added, however, that sometimes changing the geometry of such structures can create a higher risk for flooding, so the study will also examine the best ways to improve fish passage while minimizing the city’s risks for adverse effects.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

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