Planning for Climate Variability

The Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry recognizes that climate variability presents many challenges and opportunities at the local level. Fortunately, many Maine communities are taking action today to address these challenges and seize these opportunities. Whether it's upgrading road culverts for heavier rains or modifying local floodplain building standards, there's much that towns can and should do. Below, you'll find a brief list of resources to support both initial and ongoing climate change planning in your community.

Municipal Climate Adaptation Guidance Series

Many local governments in Maine are looking for practical steps to help make their communities more resilient in the face of rising sea-levels and more frequent intense storm events.  To help address this need, the Municipal Planning Assistance Program and nine of Maine’s Regional Planning Organizations, with funding from the Maine Coastal Program, have collaborated on a series of guidance documents.  These documents explain how to identify threats to community resources, and how to respond to those threats by integrating climate adaptation measures into existing local policies, practices and ordinances.  Each of the ten documents in the series addresses a different area of municipal responsibility:

MUNICIPAL CLIMATE ADAPTATION GUIDANCE SERIES

1.  Overview
2.  Transportation
3.  StreamSmart Crossings
4.  Wastewater Infrastructure
5.  Drinking Water
6.  Storm Water
7.  Comprehensive Planning
8.  Shoreland Zoning Ordinance
9.  Site Plan Review Ordinance
10. Subdivision Ordinance

Ongoing action in Maine to address climate change

Creating Resilient Urban and Community Forests Urban forests provide far more benefits than their obvious beauty and shade.  In fact, scientific research shows a measurable link between urban forests and a healthy environment, public well being, and community livability.  Manomet teamed up with the City of Bath, Maine Forest Service, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, and the U.S. Forest Service to  better understand how trees benefit people and contribute to the resiliency of a community.

An Assessment of the Economics of Natural and Built Infrastructure for Water Resources in Maine In a changing climate where flooding and droughts are becoming the norm, Maine’s water resources are an under-appreciated strength.  A new approach to water management may significantly improve our management of these resources at lower cost.  The key to this approach is the idea that it is sometimes better to not build in certain areas rather than impose structural solutions to water management problems.

EPA Stormwater Calculator Demonstration for Planning Boards

Using funds provided in a grant from the Maine Coastal Program, the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission has created a demonstration of EPA's online Stormwater Calculator. The step-by-step demonstration is designed to show local Planning Board members the effect Low-Impact Development (LID) stormwater management techniques can have when used in a hypothetical development scenario.

Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools in Saco Bay The Maine Coastal Program, Maine Geological Survey, and Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission have been exploring strategies to help Saco Bay communities prepare for sea level rise. This website offers an overview of the possible policy and regulatory responses.

Maine Cool Communities/Cities Campaign empowers communities to reduce energy costs, save tax payer dollars, improve public health through cleaner air, and create good clean jobs in a clean energy economy. As of summer 2009, the following 29 Maine communities had joined Cool Communities and signed the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement: Biddeford, Belfast, Falmouth, Brunswick, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Saco, Yarmouth, Portland, Waterville, Lewiston, South Portland, Bath, Kittery, Auburn, Bangor, Bar Harbor, Bowdoinham, Cumberland, Cranberry Island, Eliot, Fairfield, Freeport, Montville, Orono, South Berwick, Topsham, Winslow, and York.

EPA hosts the Local Climate and Energy Webcast Series to assist local government with climate change and clean energy efforts.

These regular webcasts highlight EPA resources available to local governments, and present examples of successful climate and energy programs and policies implemented locally. For more information or to view past webcasts, visit EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy Program.

Guidance resources for local climate change planning

Building a Resilient Coast: Maine Confronts Climate Change (DVD) Hear and see what your neighbors, town officials, and scientists have to say about sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and erosion; what it means to you; and what you can do about it. The documentary is composed of five segments:

  1. Introduction
  2. Changing Climate, Changing Coast: Science & Economics
  3. How Shoreline Property May Be Affected
  4. How Coastal Communities May Be Affected
  5. What Individuals & Communities Can Do To Protect Themselves

View "Building a Resilient Coast" online , or contact the Maine Sea Grant office for a free DVD.

Climate Change Worksheet - (MS Word) This one-page worksheet was designed to support local planners and officials to brainstorm municipal responses to climate change. It identifies the likely climate change impacts, as well as the challenges and opportunities by sector (e.g., municipal services, natural resources, etc.). The back side offers real examples of municipal responses from around the country.

Informal Guidance for Integrating Climate Change into a Comprehensive Plan - (MS Word) It is our hope that providing this informal guidance will both streamline comprehensive planning for climate change, as well as provide the DACF with insight into how communities are choosing to address climate change.

US EPA: Climate Ready Estuaries - (PDF) This document can be used as a resource for coastal communities as a starting point for planning to adapt to climate change. The document describes five critical elements of adaptation planning, and provides examples of these elements and suggestions for additional resources. Also available is a Synthesis of Adaptation Options for Coastal Areas - PDF)

Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional and State Governments This ICLEI guidebook offers outstanding instruction for how to: identify the impacts of climate change to your region; build community support to address climate change; conduct a climate change vulnerability and risk assessment; create a climate change plan; and more. A planner of Keene, NH writes, 'It helps you think through the process and understand what you need to look at in your community.'

Climate change science and reports

Maine's Climate Future: An Initial Assessment Prepared in 2009 by the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute, the report provides a brief look at Maine's climate past, present, and likely future, an assessment of climate change upon Maine's diverse environments, as well as a breakdown of issues and opportunities by sector (agriculture, tourism & recreation, energy, etc.). An executive summary of Maine's Climate Future - (PDF) is also available. This has been a central resource to the stakeholder workgroups in developing a Maine climate adaptation plan).

An Assessment of the Economics of Natural and Built Infrastructure for Water Resources in Maine In a changing climate where flooding and droughts are becoming the norm, Maine’s water resources are an under-appreciated strength.  A new approach to water management may significantly improve our management of these resources at lower cost.  The key to this approach is the idea that it is sometimes better to not build in certain areas rather than impose structural solutions to water management problems.

The Effects of Climate Change on Economic Activity in Maine: Coastal York County Case Study Published in the Maine Policy Review, authors Charles Colgan and Samuel Merrill of the University of Maine examine the economic impacts of climate change on coastal York County. The findings were presented at the Maine Beaches Conference on July 10, 2009.

Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast This study from the Union of Concerned Scientists draws on recent advances in climate modeling to assess how global warming may further affect the Northeast climate. Using projections from three state-of-the-art global climate models, researchers compared the types and magnitude of climate changes that will result from higher versus lower further emissions of heat-trapping gases. Includes a concise executive summary of climate change impacts on Maine.

Climate Literacy: The Essentials of Climate Science Produced in 2009 through a collaborative effort of many Federal agencies, this colorful 17-page guide provides a simple overview of the principles and concepts surrounding Earth's climate. In about 20 minutes, this guide will help you to make more informed decisions about climate change.