ROCKLAND – U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, met with senior leadership from several coastal towns Friday afternoon to talk about how he can help in preparing for flooding, sea level rise and other issues associated with climate change.

The meeting was held Oct. 14 at the Lighthouse Museum and included town managers Jon Duke of Rockport and Audra Caler of Camden, Select Board Chair Gordon Page of Owls Head, Rockland Community & Economic Development Director Julie Hashem, leaders from the islands and the governor’s office and Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden.

The key takeaway was area towns are facing damage to infrastructure, including roads and culverts, as a result of more frequent major storm events. An example of this is the Halloween storm last year which cost $1.5 million in damage in Rockport alone. King noted what used to be storms that happened every 12 years are now striking every two.

On the islands, hurricanes such as the one that just missed the Midcoast recently, threaten vital working waterfront areas and downtown areas that everyone relies on for key services. King asked specifically about drinking water, noting the irony that sea level rise can threaten water supplies, especially in places such as islands. North Haven has been studying ways to protect the aquifer and add a municipal well.

King spoke of the need to turn FEMA from an organization that reacts to disasters to one that prevents them. He argued it would be cheaper to create infrastructure that is resilient to climate change problems rather than rebuild after massive storms and flooding.

King offered his help, explaining that in his position he can help speed up the bureaucracy for towns and the state as they work to secure federal funding for needed projects.

Federal funding in the form of grants and through various agencies will provide for many of the climate-change-related improvements to local infrastructure, but the need for these projects is great, according to local officials.

The local leaders asked if matches for these grants could be reduced or placed on a sliding scale. For large projects, a 25 percent match can be difficult to fund or find approval for at a town meeting, but a 10 percent grant is more doable. King expressed approval for the idea of a sliding scale and said it might make more sense.

King also said moving forward on climate change could mean changing the thinking around the environmental movement. In the past, it was about stopping pollution. Going forward it is going to mean building things, including projects environmentalists do not like such as lithium mines and copper mines to provide for batteries for electric vehicles and wind projects. Currently, those project take decades to get through the permitting process.

“I’m going to be doing evangelism on this,” he said. He stressed the need to look at the larger goal. “It’s going to take doing things we’re not crazy about to get there.”

The meeting was held for about an hour before King had to leave for Strom Auditorium in Camden where he was delivering a speech that night, “A Hinge of History: Defending Democracy from Modern Threats.”