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Camden can prepare for climate change, study says

By Susan Mustapich | Jan 07, 2020
Photo by: Susan Mustapich A state-wide study on increasing resiliency to climate change focuses on infrastructure in 10 coastal towns, and includes Camden's Public Landing.

CAMDEN — A state report released Jan. 7 on effects of sea level rise, storm surge and flooding on Camden's Public Landing recommends moving the Harbor Master's building and public bathrooms to higher ground, as well as other options to protect these and other structures.

Camden Public Landing Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience Planning

The report is part of an engineering study of climate-change driven risks to infrastructure in 10 coastal towns. The larger study, named the Penobscot Bay Working Waterfront Resilience Analysis, was conducted under the Maine Coastal Program of the Department of Marine Resources.

The report lays out science-based sea level rise and storm surge scenarios for the present, short-term, mid-term and long-term. It details how rising waters may impact infrastructure under the four time frames, recommends changes in order to protect infrastructure and outlines costs.

A current problem pointed out is the attachment of four town-owned floating dock systems to the wharf. The recommendation is to reattach these dock systems in Camden Harbor to mooring chains and ropes anchored to the sea bed or independent float piles, with an estimated cost of $1.8 million.

The floating docks serve windjammers, and resident and visitor boats of varying sizes. The report explains that under current highest annual tide conditions, attachment of the dock systems could result in strain to the wharf's massive timber on the water-side. The report projects that in short- and mid-term scenarios an increasing number of high tides may cause the docks to exert forces on the wharf leading to damage.

Relocating and securing utilities on the wharf is another current recommendation. This involves securing utility lines above flood elevation in a watertight stainless-steel cabinet, at an estimated cost of $350,000.

The report's authors from Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions of Portland interviewed Harbor Master Steve Pixley and Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin in June 2019. The authors learned from Pixley that when the tide rises to just below the top of the wharf, about two to three times a year, electrical systems have failed and had to be replaced. Both Martin and Pixely informed the authors that plans to install a breakwater in Camden's outer harbor have been discussed in the past.

The report tackles many recommendations. These include mid-term solutions  for the Harbor Master's building. One option is moving the building closer to Route 1, and another is raising the structure to protect against predicted 2050 flood levels, due to storms and high tides, and providing wave protection in the form of a seawall. Another is constructing the building with "more robust material with sealed openings against moisture intrusion."

One of the long-term recommendations is for reconstruction of the town wharf, estimated to cost $2.5 million.

The report also predicts flooding and elevated water levels from present day to 2085 for Harbor Park's seawalls and walkway at the request of the town. However, structural assessment and vulnerability analysis for this site was not part of the scope of the study.

Megunticook Watershed Habitat and Restoration grant

At the last meeting of 2019, the Select Board approved the use of $100,000 from the current 2019-20 budget as a possible match to a $139,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The grant will be used for a feasibility study of the entire Megunticook watershed. The study involves looking at options for all the dams on the Megunticook River, as well as river habitat restoration and increasing resiliency to increasing flooding risks, due to climate change, according to Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell.

Caler-Bell highlighted the need to prepare for the effects of climate change on town infrastructure in the current budget, which was approved at town meeting in June 2019. The $30,000 capital reserve fund was budgeted for the purpose of river and habitat restoration, to be used as matching funds for grants to replace or remove dams, create fish passage up the river and wetland restoration. The use of the funds will be offset by town surplus funds.

The $75,000 in capital improvement funds was budgeted for the restoration of the sea wall at Harbor Park, and will be offset by the use of TIF funds.

Caler-Bell wrote in an email that the town will use different sources to come up with the total local match as the project moves forward, including in-kind, volunteer, donated and cash match. While there is a general idea of the different sources and their value, as the project moves forward this will change, she explained.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Jan 13, 2020 11:18

Camden needs federal money to fund all of these interventions, which are the result of  decades of national policy. The local tax base is too small. Local funds should not be used.

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