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Testimony in Support of LD 1572: Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise

May 7, 2021

Senator Stacy Brenner
Representative Ralph Tucker
Environment and Natural Resources Committee
ENR [at] legislature [dot] maine [dot] gov

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 1572: Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise

Dear Senator Brenner, Representative Tucker, and Esteemed Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,

Please accept this letter as Friends of Casco Bay’s testimony in support of LD 1572: Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise. The actions called for by this bill are critical to making our coastal communities and resources resilient to climate change.

Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization dedicated to improving and protecting the health of Casco Bay. We monitor water quality, and use that data to inform our advocacy and engage our communities in our efforts.

We support LD 1572 because it requires state agencies that manage and regulate coastal land use, to review the laws and rules they administer and recommend changes to this Committee, by January 1, 2022, that:

  1. Incorporate consideration of 1.5 feet of relative sea level rise by 2050 and 3.9 feet of relative sea level rise by 2100; and
  2. Implement “Strategy F3” in the state climate action plan.

With these changes, Maine law will have a forward-thinking lens that considers how our coast will look with sea level rise (SLR) and how it will be affected by more intense storms. With this perspective, we can be plan for change.

We must act now because our coastal communities already suffer the effects of SLR, higher tides, and more intense storms. Our Water Reporter network uses an app to photograph and document the effects of these changes. We have attached an example from a Water Reporter on Great Diamond Island. Our water quality data confirm that Casco Bay is receiving larger loads of stormwater pollution from more intense storms, including excessive nitrogen that is causing nuisance and harmful algal blooms and contributing to coastal acidification.

As Casco Baykeeper, I serve on the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council (MCC) and helped form some of the recommendations proposed by LD 1572, which are more fully detailed in Strategy F3 of the state climate action plan and Appendix A of the Community Resilience Working Group report. That strategy requires the State to update its coastal land use regulations, laws, and practices by 2024, to set a foundation f municipalities revise their comprehensive plans and ordinances to meet changing conditions.

There’s no time for delay. The Science and Technical Subcommittee of the MCC has advised that Maine must commit to manage for 1.6 feet of SLR by 2050 and 3.9 feet by 2100. They further advised that we must be prepared to manage for 8.8 feet of SLR by 2100. These levels of SLR, coupled with the Highest Astronomical Tide,¹ have staggering consequences:

  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, six of ten Maine waste water treatment facilities currently within the 100-foot floodplain will be permanently inundated.
  • With 1 foot of SLR, the frequency of nuisance flooding that already impacts coastal Maine will increase 10-15 fold, from an average of 14 hours to about 142 hours per year.
  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, 26 miles of coastal public roads, 6 miles of rail, and 977-1022 crossings and culverts will be inundated. With 3.9 feet of SLR, 116 miles of roads, 23 miles of rail, and 1128-1180 crossings and culverts will be flooded. (ERG Summary, p. 11).
  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, 61% of undeveloped dunes and 85% of developed dunes will be inundated. With 3.9 feet of SLR, 93% of undeveloped dunes and 96% of developed dunes will be inundated. (STS Report, Table 17, p.99).
  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, 43% of protective dry beach will be lost, and with 3.9 feet of SLR, 74% of dry beach will be lost. (STS Report, Table 15, p. 98).

If we do not revise our laws now, we will not have the guidance we need to properly site or modify infrastructure, protect working waterfronts, and adapt our coastal communities. Without management that considers shifts in habitat, we will lose valuable resources.

Friends of Casco Bay requests that this Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1572, A Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise, Ought To Pass.

Thank you for considering our testimony.

Respectfully submitted,
Ivy L. Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper

¹ As referenced by the Maine Geological Survey, the Highest Astronomical Tide is the elevation of the highest
predicted astronomical tide expected to occur at a specific tide station over the National Tidal Datum Epoch.

Your Voice is Needed! Rising seas in Casco Bay

Casco Bay needs your voice!

A crucial bill is making its way through the Maine Legislature: “LD 1572 Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise.” We hope you will lend your voice in support of this bill.

This bill will require state agencies to incorporate sea level rise and other climate change factors into Maine’s coastal land use laws, a top recommendation of the Maine Won’t Wait climate action plan. Even with reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, scientific consensus predicts Maine will experience at least 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050 and 3.9 feet by 2100. Without planning and action, rising seas will permanently flood coastal wastewater treatment plants, roads, beaches, and sand dunes, which could cost up to $17.5 billion in damages by 2050.

We can take measures to minimize this harm if we revise our coastal laws, site and build infrastructure differently, and employ natural solutions such as living shorelines. LD 1572 provides a roadmap for Maine to take action to mitigate and adapt to rising seas.

The Maine Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on LD 1572 on May 7 at 9 a.m. It is important that the Committee hear from you.

What you can do:

Submit written testimony in favor of LD 1572 to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, via the Maine Legislature’s Testimony Submission and Sign-up page. This testimony page can be confusing, so we have included below detailed instructions for submitting testimony.*

Here are a few talking points you may want to include in your testimony (it would be best if you could put these into your own words):

Dear Senator Stacy Brenner, Representative Ralph Tucker, and the Distinguished Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:

I am writing to ask that the Environment and Natural Resources Committee vote that LD 1572: Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise, ought to pass because:

  • Seas are rising. Scientific consensus predicts Maine will experience at least 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050 and 3.9 feet by 2100. Maine’s coast will see increases in nuisance flooding, loss of coastal habitats and beaches, and inundation of coastal infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment plants, roads, culverts, and crossings.
  • Flooding and storms are surging. 1-foot of sea level rise alone is projected to result in a 15-fold increase in nuisance flooding, and climate change is expected to increase the frequency of “100-year” storms to occur once every 10 years. These impacts will cause substantial disruptions for coastal communities and the fishing, tourism, and port industries that support them.
  • Coastal ecosystems may drown. 1.6-feet of sea level rise is anticipated to submerge 67% of Maine’s coastal sand dunes, reduce our dry beaches by 42%, and devastate saltmarshes. All three of these ecosystems provide invaluable ecosystem services and economic benefits to our communities.
  • Economic consequences will be staggering. 3.9-feet of sea level rise is estimated to cause over $671 million in cumulative building losses and $665 million in gross domestic losses in Maine. Economists hired by the Maine Climate Council predict that by 2050, Maine’s coastline will sustain damages of up to $17.5 billion if we do not adapt now.
  • We can’t wait. LD 1572 will enable us to make our communities resilient now before the worst impacts of sea level rise affect our coast.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

If you need help submitting your testimony through the Maine Legislature’s website you can reach out to our Staff Writer, Robby Lewis-Nash, for help [email robbylewisnash [at] cascobay [dot] org or call (413) 695-3306].

Thank you for using your voice to help protect the health of Casco Bay.

Ivy Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

*Instructions for submitting testimony
To submit written testimony, you must use the same online form as signing up to testify live. The language on the page does not make this clear that the form allows you to submit your written testimony and provides the option to sign up to testify live. The numbered steps below correspond with the red arrows in the photo.

1. To submit testimony, first select “public hearing” as the type of hearing.

2. Then select “Environment and Natural Resources Committee.”

3. Select May 7 at 9 a.m., the date and time when the LD 1572 hearing is scheduled.

4. You will then have the option to select LD 1572 as the bill you want to submit testimony for.

5. You can write your comments directly into the form, attach the file of your written testimony, or copy-and-paste your words into the form.

6. You will then need to put your name and contact information into the form.

7. Check the “I am not a robot” box.

8. Finally, click the “submit/register” button.

Here’s a visual overview of the eight step process.

Implementing Maine’s climate plan helps Casco Bay

Climate change threatens the health of Casco Bay. In March, more than 335 Friends of the Bay joined us for Sea Level Rise, Storms, and Surge Oh My! and told us the impacts of rising seas and stronger storms are a top concern.

We agree.

With climate change being such a large issue, to protect Casco Bay and the communities that depend on it, we need effective policies at the state level.

Friends of Casco Bay has worked hard to help ensure threats to our coastal waters were addressed in Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s climate action plan.

Now, we are supporting legislation to implement the plan and its strategies. Through collaborative efforts, such as the Environmental Priorities Coalition, we are supporting efforts designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and find solutions to impacts of climate change.

For Casco Bay, here are three climate-related bills we support:

LD 1572, Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise

This bill requires state agencies to incorporate sea level rise and other climate factors into Maine’s coastal land use laws. Current laws do not take into account the scientific consensus that Maine will experience at least 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050 and 3.9 feet by 2100. Without thoughtful planning and action, rising seas will permanently flood numerous coastal wastewater treatment plants, roads, culverts and crossings. A public hearing for this bill is scheduled for May 7. Stay tuned for more information about how you can use your voice to help protect the Bay!

LD 49, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Infrastructure To Address Sea Level Rise.

This bond would provide $50 million to address sea level rise through improvements to municipalities’ waterfront and coastal infrastructure. Access to these funds will help towns and cities leverage other funding to relocate, modify, or overhaul existing infrastructure. See our testimony on this issue here.

LD 983, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Promote Land Conservation, Working Waterfronts, Water Access and Outdoor Recreation
This bond proposal would provide $80 million over a period of 10 years to purchase coastal land for the public. Lands purchased will conserve critical coastal habitats and ensure public access to Maine’s coast — after all, Casco Bay belongs to everyone. See our testimony on this issue here.

State action is only one piece of the climate change puzzle. We look forward to sharing more about what local communities around the Bay are doing to mitigate and address climate change. If you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts on our work, we love hearing from you.

Thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

LD 49, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Infrastructure To Address Sea Level Rise

Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs
c/o Legislative Information Office
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

April 26, 2021

RE: LD 49, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Infrastructure To Address Sea Level Rise

Dear Senator Breen, Representative Pierce, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,

Friends of Casco Bay submits this testimony in support of LD 49, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Infrastructure To Address Sea Level Rise. This bond would provide $50,000,000 in funding to improve waterfront and coastal infrastructure in municipalities to address sea level rise.

Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization formed in 1989 to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. We monitor the health of Casco Bay, and use that data to inform our advocacy and engage our communities in efforts to protect the health of our coastal waters.

Our data confirm that the biggest threat to the health of Casco Bay is climate change. We serve on the Coastal and Marine Working Group (CMWG) of the Maine Climate Council (MCC), and whole-heartedly agree with the MCC that we must act quickly to curb the causes and be resilient to the consequences of climate change. The “Maine Won’t Wait” climate action plan is based upon sound science and calls for swift action. The plan recognizes that municipalities will need technical and financial assistance to implement resilience solutions. The funding must occur now so that timely changes can be made to address current consequences and prepare for the future. Sea level rise (SLR) poses one of the biggest and most visible threats to our coastal communities.1 In our recent program, “Sea Level, Storms and Surges, Oh My,” attended by about 350 participants, Mainers identified SLR and its impacts on both built and natural environments as their top coastal concern. (See footnote 1 below.)

Based on projections calculated by the Science and Technical Subcommittee and adopted by the MCC, we must commit to manage for 3.9 feet of SLR and be prepared to manage for 8.8 feet of SLR by 2100. We likely will have 1.6 feet of
SLR by 2050.

If we couple those levels of SLR with the Highest Astronomical Tide,² the MCC projects that:

  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, six of the ten waste water treatment facilities currently within the 100 foot floodplain will be permanently inundated.
  • The nuisance flooding that already impacts coastal Maine will increase 10-15 fold with just 1 foot of SLR, increasing from average flooding of about 14 hours per year to about 142 hours per year.
  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, 26 miles of coastal public roads, 6 miles of rail, and 977-1022 crossings and culverts (ERG Summary, p. 11) will be inundated. With 3.9 feet of SLR, 116 miles of roads, 23 miles of rail, and 1128-1180 crossings and culverts will be flooded (ERG Summary p. 11).
  • With 1.6 feet of SLR, 61% of undeveloped dunes and 85% of developed dunes will be inundated. By 2100, 3.9 feet of SLR will inundate 93% of undeveloped dunes and 96% of developed dunes. (STS Report, Table 17, p.99).
  • In addition, 1.6 feet of SLR will inundate 43% of protective dry beach, and with 3.9 feet of SLR, we will lose 74% of dry beach. (STS Report, Table 15, p. 98).

The economic consequences of these changes will be staggering for municipalities. Economists hired by the MCC estimate that by 2050, Maine’s coastline will sustain damages of up to $17.5 billion. The costs to redesign or move wastewater treatment facilities, raise or relocate roads, move infrastructure in dunes, and replace and resize crossings and culverts will be staggering.

Yet, we continue to be a state that gravitates to coastal living and coastal livelihoods. Providing $50,000,000 now will provide municipalities with a chance to leverage additional funds so they can address current infrastructure failures related to SLR and prepare for a more resilient future.

Friends of Casco Bay respectfully and ardently requests that this Committee support LD 49, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Infrastructure To Address Sea Level Rise. Thank you for considering our testimony.

Respectfully submitted,

Ivy L. Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay
43 Slocum Drive
South Portland, ME 04106
Cell: (207) 831-3067
ifrignoca [at] cascobay [dot] org

¹ For an overview of the science behind SLR and the actions Maine must take, please watch
https://www.cascobay.org/rising-seas-and-storm-surges-in-casco-bay/.

² As referenced on the web page for the Maine Geological Survey, the Highest Astronomical Tide is the elevation of the highest predicted astronomical tide expected to occur at a specific tide station over the National Tidal Datum Epoch, or NTDE. The NTDE is a specific 19-year period adopted by the National Ocean Service as the official time segment over which tide observations are taken and reduced to obtain mean values (e.g., mean lower low water, etc.) for tidal datums. It is necessary for standardization because of periodic and apparent secular trends in sea level. The present NTDE is 1983 through 2001 and is actively considered for revision every 20-25 years.

Rising seas and storm surges in Casco Bay

We had an inspiring and informative conversation at our latest Casco Bay Matters event, Sea level, storms, and surges, oh my! How Maine’s coasts can be resilient to climate change. Marine Geologist Peter Slovinsky from Maine Geological Survey joined Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to illuminate the latest science on rising seas, and how we can work together to make our coastline and waters resilient to climate change.

Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were unable to attend live or would like to rewatch. Attendees asked more questions than we had time to answer, so we also created a bonus video where we answered them, see below.

If you don’t have time to watch the full event, there are a few key moments you may want to check out. We’ve assembled these three clips into one playlist to make it easy to watch. The playlist is eight minutes long.

In the first clip, Peter shares how rising seas can dramatically increase the frequency and duration of “nuisance” flooding events in Portland and along the shores of Casco Bay. Thee, Peter discusses the historical trends of sea level rise in Portland, dating back to 1912. He points out that over the past 118 years, nearly 50% of the increase in sea level has occurred since 1990. Finally, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shares how we can respond to rising seas through adaptable policy informed by science.

 

Your sea level rise questions answered!

Event attendees asked more questions than we had time to answer . . . until now.

Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman recently followed up with Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Marine Geologist Peter Slovinsky to answer questions we did have time to address during the event. Including:

  • Where can we get good local information about projected sea level rise in our community?
  • Can future governors disband Maine’s Climate Council?
  • What will it cost us if we don’t begin to adapt to coming changes?
  • What are some useful actions we can take to help address climate change and sea level rise?

We hope you enjoy this Casco Bay Matters bonus content!

In this bonus content video, Pete and Ivy mention a number of resources. Here are links to those resources:

We are beginning to see the effects of climate change here in Casco Bay. Anticipating and adapting to the impacts of rising seas and stronger storms will prove critical to protecting the health of our coastal waters. If you are on our email list, we will keep you informed on ways you can help make your voice heard on these issues as state and local decision makers continue to develop climate change policies. Joining our email list is also the best way to stay up to date about future events.

If you want to do more, you can always support our work by making a donation or volunteering.

How can our coast be more resilient to climate change?

October and November 2020 Water Reporter Posts of the Month

April 2020 Water Reporter Post of The Month

Did the town planners mean for you to get your feet wet when sitting on this granite bench at Falmouth Town Landing? Probably not.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Judith Fergin’s Water Reporter post has a lot to say about sea level rise.

Judith took the photo in April during an astronomical high tide. Such high tides can help us spot areas that are vulnerable to rising seas.

“The Town Landing part of Casco Bay has always been an important part of my life. The bench in the photo used to not look so isolated,” reported Judith. “At high tide, you could see a lot more of the rock it sits on and you could always see at least a bit of the lower rock next to it. Over the years, it seems like those rocks have shrunk as waters have risen. Now the bench is almost surrounded and its neighboring rock is submerged so you cannot see it at high tide at all.”

When you build something out of granite you are planning for it to last generations. It is unlikely that the bench in Judith’s photo will last as long as hoped. Maine geologists are planning for a three to five foot sea level rise along the coast over the next 100 years. More importantly, sea level rise and storm surges threaten much of the infrastructure — the homes, roads, and water treatment plants — we have built near the ocean.

While this tide was a naturally occurring event due to the gravitational effects of the Earth, Sun, and Moon, exacerbated by the amount of sea level rise we already are experiencing, Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteer Water Reporters are taking photos like this one to help us envision what sea level rise will look like in the future. We are using these observations as we work with local, regional, and state officials to assess and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Judith has posted more than 20 Water Reporter observations since she began volunteering. “I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in a fact-based and science-based endeavor to record how, as a community and a society, we are affecting the environment,” she reflected. “We need to do all we can to address climate change.”

If you are interested in joining us as a volunteer Water Reporter, check out our website for more information or email Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman.