2017-12-22 / Front Page

Harpswell receives $20,000

Grant will help town prepare for sea level rise
Times Record Staff


As part of an effort to prepare Harpswell for rising sea levels, the town received a $20,000 Coastal Community Planning Grant to plan for coastal flooding around Basin Point Road.

“The project really involves two parts,” said Harpswell Town Planner Mark Eyerman. “One is to work with Gorill Palmer, who are the town’s contract engineers, to look at what would have to be done to maintain the passability of Basin Point Road at various levels of sea level rise.

“And secondly to look at what the impacts could be — and how to manage those impacts — of increased salt water going through the culvert that goes under Basin Point Road at the low point and goes into a pond on the upland side, and wetlands that are part of the Curtis Farm Preserve that the land trust owns,” he added.

The project is part of a long-term effort to plan for sea level rise, an issue of growing concern in many coastal communities.

“About five years ago, the Conservation Commission, on behalf of the town, undertook a project with the Midcoast Regional Planning Group to look at what the impact of various levels of sea level rise would be on the town of Harpswell,” said Eyerman. “Out of that project came a series of maps of the town that estimate where inundation would occur in high tide situations with a one-foot, three-foot, and six-foot increase in sea level.”

That effort helped Harpswell officials understand which roads, both public and private, would be most susceptible to flooding with higher sea levels. Part of the Conservation Commission’s work has been to encourage residents who live on private roads to form road associations, which make it easier for the town to work with them to address future issues.

As a next step, the town applied for the grant as a pilot program, where they would look at one road susceptible to increased flooding issues and create a plan for it. Harpswell will use the grant to develop a management plan for a portion of Basin Point Road, which partially wraps around Basin Cove in West Harpswell.

According to Eyerman, the project consists of two parts: Addressing flooding concerns for the road, and preventing environmental damage in the surrounding wetlands. The town will work with Gorill Palmer to see if raising the road or replacing the culvert would be a reasonable solution.

“The issue is that certain vegetation grows in freshwater environments, and certain vegetation grows in salt water environments,” said Eyerman, “and as sea level increases, the amount of salt water flowing, if you will, inland through the culvert is likely to increase.

“What happens in some situations is if the environment changes too fast, the freshwater plants die, and then it takes a long time … for the salt-tolerant vegetation to take over,” he added. “So what you wind up with is mud flats.”

Through the grant, Harpswell will be working with Casco Bay Estuary Partnership to ensure that the road remains passable while mitigating “a catastrophic collapse of the freshwater vegetation as it becomes a more salient environment.”

The grant is made possible through the Maine Coastal Program, which receives funding from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The program awarded grants to five other projects along the coast, for a total amount of $167,000.


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