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Summary of State Agency Action

In 2010, the state finalized the People and Nature Adapting to a Changing Climate: Charting Maine’s Course (“2010 Plan”). It includes approximately 118 discrete goals related to climate change adaptation. These goals cover the following sectors: agriculture, biodiversity, coasts and oceans, emergency preparedness, forestry, infrastructure, public health, and water. This page describes some of the progress state agencies are making to implement goals in each of these sectors.

Agriculture

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to agriculture focus on increasing the state’s capacity to work across agencies and leverage federal funding to support cooperative research through its Cooperative Extension Program, and evaluating Maine’s agriculture-specific water management strategies in light of climate change.

The University of Maine assists the state in achieving its goal of improving research and building capacity in the agricultural sector through its Cooperative Extension Program, and through the work of the Maine Food and Agriculture Center to identify sustainable solutions for the state’s food system. Maine is also actively implementing the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey, a national pest detection program to track invasive species and harmful exotic plants, and to minimize the impact of their growth and spread due to climate variability.

Biodiversity

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to biodiversity include incorporating climate change impacts into state wildlife and habitat planning, decisions, and funding criteria; increasing funding for land and water conservation projects that address climate adaptation; and partnering with other entities, like the University of Maine, local governments, and the public, to research and enhance vulnerable ecosystems, with a focus on state-protected ecological reserves and migration corridors.

In 2015, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries Wildlife released an updated Maine State Wildlife Action Plan that considers climate change impacts to species. Over 100 conservation partners contributed to the plan, which identified 378 Species of Greatest Conservation Need, and outlined actions the state can undertake to minimize the impacts of climate change on these species.

Adaptation efforts under the Beginning with Habitat (BwH) program, a partnership between state and federal agencies and conservation organizations, have also grown to include the designation of Focus Areas — landscape-scale areas of statewide ecological significance containing unusually rich concentrations of at-risk species and habitats. As of May 2018, 140 Focus Areas have been designated in Maine. In addition, BwH generates maps — including for water resources and riparian habitats, high-value plant and animal habitats, and undeveloped habitat blocks and habitat connections — for municipalities throughout Maine to help them incorporate wildlife and habitat conservation and climate resilience into land-use planning.

 

Coasts & Oceans

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to coasts and the ocean include improving mapping of sea-level rise risks for coastal communities; creating state policies to prepare for and enhance resilience to climate change impacts to the coast, especially for development in coastal and riverine floodplains (e.g., adapt coastal setback rules to take sea-level rise into account); and investing in and finding new or additional funding for oceanic research regarding the impacts of climate change on oceanic conditions (e.g., tides, currents, temperatures, coastal inundation, ocean acidification) and fisheries.

To implement these goals, Maine’s Coastal Program is spearheading several research projects to support: adaptation planning for Maine’s Coastal State Parks (completed 2012), assessment of sea-level rise coastal hazards (completed 2013), development of strategies for enhancing the coastal resiliency of marshes and undeveloped coastal areas (completed 2014), development of strategies for building shoreline bluff resiliency (completed 2017), and mapping of coastal sand dunes (ongoing).

In 2013, the Maine Coastal Program, in partnership with the Maine Geological Survey and Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, finalized a Sea-Level Rise Coastal Hazards Study. The study evaluated the potential impacts of a one-, two-, and six-foot increase in sea levels on the highest annual tide and the state’s “storm of record”. The study also evaluated legal and policy barriers and opportunities for the state and communities to address these risks.

Maine has also made some progress in updating its coastal setback requirements. In January 2015, the state amended its Guidelines for Municipal Shoreland Zoning Ordinances to account for sea-level rise impacts by replacing the “maximum spring tide” standard with “highest annual tide” to establish local development setbacks and to define the inland extent of wetlands.

Forestry

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to forestry focus on increasing research to better understand the effects of climate change on forests and forest management, including pests and pathogens, invasive species, and hydrological conditions, and, in the long term, improving the ability of forests to become more resilient to these threats.

The state is also undertaking efforts to track pests and invasive species in response to changing environmental conditions. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry administers a Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey, a federal-state partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quickly detect and alert forest and other natural resources managers about pests, and Maine’s Forest Service has a uniform strategy to monitor and address non-native forest pests through its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program. The program takes an active role to promote and facilitate the use of IPM and best management practices across the state.

Infrastructure

Maine’s 2010 Plan has many goals related to infrastructure (e.g., transportation, water, public buildings) including: inventorying and assessing the vulnerability of state-owned infrastructure to climate-change impacts (with a particular focus on rising seas and increased flooding); reviewing and revising design and planning standards to adapt infrastructure, like roads and waste-, storm-, and drinking-water facilities, to climate change impacts; improving capital management planning at the state and local levels to account for climate change; and improving tools to assess climate-change impacts to infrastructure, such as creating coastal inundation maps that overlay maps of state roadways and culverts.

In 2009, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) published a report on Climate Change and Transportation in Maine. The report reviews the best available science on observed and projected climate patterns in Maine, synthesizes the effects of climate change on Maine's transportation infrastructure, and lists the measures MaineDOT will take to address climate impacts. The report was a preliminary summary of Maine’s proactive approach to transportation planning that addresses climate impacts in response to state legislation L.D. 460, Resolve to Evaluate Climate Change Adaptation Options for the State.

Recognizing that climate change will cause changes in precipitation and streamflow, Maine has taken several steps to  evaluate the vulnerability of its bridges to scour (removal of sediments around bridge supports due to fast-moving water) and sea-level rise. For example, in 2014, MaineDOT published a report, 2014 Keeping Our Bridges Safe, which indicated that many of the bridges identified as “scour-critical” have since received countermeasures and are no longer classified as at risk. MaineDOT has created and implemented Scour Plans of Action for all scour-critical bridges; prioritizing and implementing countermeasures on critical routes is ongoing. Furthermore, MaineDOT has produced several updates in recent years of its Bridge Design Guide. Updates in June 2018 included increasing the amount of sea-level rise that should be accounted for in preliminary design (to 4 feet per 100 years).

Also, in its 2017-2020 State Transit Improvement Plan (STIP), MaineDOT included funding priorities for research projects to study strategies for extending the life of concrete bridges and marine structures within varied climates and development, and for implementation of a risk?based planning process for coastal transportation assets that includes considerations of sea-level rise and storm surge.

Beginning in 2016, MaineDOT and New Hampshire DOT worked together to study future impacts from sea-level rise and storm surge to state coastal highways and to develop natural infrastructure solutions to address vulnerabilities. The project was funded by the Federal Highway Administration through its "Green Infrastructure Techniques for Coastal Highway Resilience" project, which explores innovative ways that transportation agencies can use green infrastructure or nature-based solutions to make highways more resilient to coastal hazards, including storm surges and sea-level rise.

For energy infrastructure, Maine revised its Energy Assurance and Emergency Management Plan in 2011, identifying potential vulnerabilities due to factors including damage from climatic events and the agencies responsible for responding to possible fuel supply disruptions and damage to critical infrastructure.

Other relevant efforts include an ongoing interagency project under the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, led by Maine’s Energy Management Agency, to overlay the state’s critical infrastructure with hazard risk maps.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

Public Health

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to public health include evaluating state capacity to track and monitor health threats impacted by climate change, such as expanding and emerging vector-borne diseases, exacerbation of respiratory symptoms due to increasing temperatures or air pollutant levels, and increasing algal blooms and water-borne disease outbreaks due to increasing temperature and precipitation. The 2010 Plan also recommends that the state identify early indicators of these health threats to prevent them from escalating, such as behavioral health issues associated with climate-change impacts and stressors like disaster trauma; and that it increase statewide education and outreach. In the long-term, the state intends to provide additional support to communities to prepare for health threats and alter the built environment to minimize these risks.

To implement these goals, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) operates the data hub, Maine Tracking Network, that focuses on possible climate change-related health threats, including air quality, heat illness, water supply, and exposure to environmental hazards. In addition, CDCP’s Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team conducts exercises and trainings for staff and public volunteers to learn how to address behavioral health issues, like disaster trauma.

Emergency Management

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to emergency preparedness focus on integrating climate change preparedness and resilience into emergency planning management at the state and local levels.

In 2013, the Maine Emergency Management Agency released a five-year Hazard Mitigation Plan that accounts for changing impacts from climate, like sea-level rise, increased flooding, and more frequent and damaging natural disasters.

 

Water

The 2010 Plan’s goals related to water include revising and updating water pollution standards and monitoring nutrient pollution in response to climate change impacts (like increased precipitation and frequency and intensity of storm events); improving design standards for the engineering of stormwater and wastewater treatment systems to better account for precipitation changes in order to reduce pollutants reaching the Gulf of Maine; developing predictive forecasting models to better understand the effects of climate change on the state’s hydrological conditions; and maintaining and enhancing existing water monitoring programs.

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection administers the state’s water programs for stormwater, watershed management, and water quality, among others. DEP provides online information about “Climate Preparation and Adaptation” in this sector and integrates climate change adaptation into agency programs, policies, rules and operations “to ensure they will be effective under future climatic conditions.” For example, DEP promotes the use of green or natural infrastructure and Low Impact Development in the siting and permitting of stormwater treatment facilities.

(Research last updated: May 30, 2018).

 
 
 
 

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