December 30, 2021

The January Newsletter is Here Early Because We Have Time Sensitive News!

Yes, this is our January newsletter…and yes it is coming out in December, but tides do not keep the same calendar we do! This Monday, January 3rd, Portland and South Portland will be seeing some high tides, and we need citizen scientists to go out, take photos, and post them on the GMRI Ecosystem Investigation Network. Read below to learn more about other ways you can support and learn about coastal resilience through local projects and events! 

Coffee & Climate: Coastal Resilience

Join us Friday, January 14th from 9am - 10am for our monthly Coffee & Climate conversation where we will be discussing coastal resilience. We will be joined by GRMI's Gayle Bowness and David Reidmiller and Friends of Casco Bay's Sarah Lyman to discuss the impact of climate change on Casco Bay, current coastal resilience initiatives, and how our cities are planning and preparing for projected sea level rise and coastal flooding. Grab a cup of joe and we will see you there! 

Sign up for this Zoom get-together through Eventbrite, and make sure to save the Zoom link which is posted on the Eventbrite page. 

Coffee and Climate is a monthly virtual office hours hosted by the One Climate Future team. This event occurs on the second Friday of each month and provides a regular time for community members to meet with the Portland and South Portland Sustainability Offices.

Why Should You Care About Coastal Resilience?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coastal resilience means building the ability of a community to "bounce back" after hazardous events such as hurricanes, coastal storms, and flooding - rather than simply reacting to impacts. A more informed and prepared community will have a greater opportunity to rebound quickly from weather and climate-related events, which can reduce the subsequent human health, environmental, and economic impacts.

As the ocean warms and sea level rises due to climate change, coastal storms will become more frequent and more intense. With the Gulf of Maine warming faster than 99% of the global ocean and sea level rise (SLR) projections indicating we need to plan for 3.9ft in the intermediate SLR scenario, it is clear that coastal resilience is incredibly important for coastal communities such as Portland and South Portland. (see GMRI sea level rise interactive tool) Prioritizing and planning for coastal resilience can allow our cities to prevent a short-term hazard event from turning into a long-term community-wide disaster. 

Visit High Water Marks Around Our Cities

As sea level continues to rise, coastal cities like Portland and South Portland are especially susceptible to severe flooding. In the Gulf of Maine specifically, we are experiencing sea level rise at a higher rate than the global average. In an effort to increase public awareness and education around coastal flooding, the Cities partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to place High Water Marks in several locations around Portland and South Portland. The High Water Mark signage identifies the historic-level flooding of the Blizzard of 1978 as well as projected flooding levels in 2050, which greatly exceed historic record flood levels. Visit the High Water Mark signs in both Cities to gauge the history of severe flooding and what's to come in the absence of significant climate action.

Also check out GMRI's interactive maps displaying projected flooding in South Portland as well as specific coastal flooding sites in Portland and South Portland. These sites are part of the Coastal Flood Citizen Science Project and allow community members to submit data from local coastal sites they care about to contribute to this effort.

Regional News: GPCOG Coastal Resilience Grant

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has awarded the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) $250,000 in funding to protect coastal communities, which GPCOG has matched with an additional $250,000 in funds acquired through GMRI, foundation grants, and municipal participation. Eleven coastal communities, including Portland and South Portland, will work on a two year project to find nature based solutions to mitigate coastal flooding. This project aims to engage people whose livelihoods are affected by coastal flooding and help community volunteers, municipal staff, elected officials and community leaders plan for nature-based solutions to flooding. Participating communities will learn about data collection and analysis, research, and best practices so they can develop projects that are ready to be designed and implemented. Read the Press Herald story and watch the Channel 6 report to learn more.

Story Time: A Rainy December High Tides Walk

The rain had slowed to a drizzle as people filed from Commercial Street into the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s atrium for the final High Tides and Hot Chocolate of the year. This was a four part series in which GMRI and the Portland Museum of Art gathered with residents to walk down Commercial Street to collect flood data and witness first hand the effect that sea level rise will have on the Portland waterfront. Each walk coincided with a King Tide, an exceptionally high tide that occurs around the time of a new or full moon. As the atrium filled, with over thirty students, municipal partners, and citizen scientists huddling from the rain with hot chocolate in hand, Gayle Bowness, GMRI’s Municipal Climate Action Program Manager, called attention to the wall behind her. There were three distinct lines denoting 1.8 ft, 3.9 ft, and 8 ft–the sea level rise we are preparing for in the Casco Bay region for 2025, 2050, and 2100, respectively. These levels can be thought of as water that will be tacked on to any flooding currently experienced in Portland and South Portland.

As we walked out into the rain and down the street, we could see water already pooling in potholes and divots. Around the corner, down Widgery Wharf and Portland Pier, water lapped against the tires of parked cars and crawled up the sidewalks. Citizen scientists, prepared with knee-high rubber boots, slowly waded into the water, testing its depth with their feet. A woman opened the door from Jay’s Oyster Bar and a man shouted down from a window in an office across the street. It was clear that this flooding has become part of the norm on these streets. Those on the walk pulled back from the water to find a good vantage point, took out their phones, and snapped photos that would later be posted to GMRI’s Ecosystem Investigation Network. To prepare for coastal flooding, there needs to be documentation of flooding events to help planners, researchers, and municipalities understand how flooding and sea level rise are currently affecting our waterfronts. That rainy Monday, our community gathered to become citizen scientists and build this knowledge.

On Monday January 3rd, we are predicted to be experiencing another high tide. Be a citizen scientist and go out, take photos at the designated sites, and post to GMRI's Ecosystem Investigation Network!

Let’s Chat

One Climate Future is a people-based plan, and we can’t do this alone. Invite Sustainability Staff to speak at your events and collaborate with your network/organization on the work ahead. Get in touch through the One Climate Future website.
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