Testimony in Support of LD 408, An Act To Help Municipalities Prepare for Changes in Sea Level

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
In support of LD 408,
March 5, 2015

Senator Willette, Representative Martin, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Nancy Smith and I am Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. I was unable to attend the public hearing on March 2nd, and am writing in support of LD 408, requesting that this testimony be added to the record for this legislation.

We are a statewide non-profit, membership-based organization working to improve Maine's economy while protecting its distinctive character and communities and enhancing our state's quality places. I believe this bill will enable Maine’s communities to do just that.   

Maine’s towns and cities are beginning to address sea level rise in their planning efforts.  The testimony presented at the public hearing affirms that sea level change is impacting coastal communities and even tidal river communities, and the pace of change is accelerating.

Most Maine towns recognize the value of planning how to respond to growth and change, though the Growth Management Act encourages but does not require communities to develop and implement a comprehensive plan.  This bill proposes incorporating sea level change in the list of issues to be addressed within municipal planning.  There are programs in place to assist communities that identify sea level change as a significant issue. Given the potential impact of changes in sea level, including property damage and public infrastructure failure, this is an appropriate and timely proposal.  As I understand it, because the planning process itself is not required, this legislation would not constitute a municipal mandate. I agree with other testimony submitted that it would be prudent to ensure this does not create such a mandate.

I draw your attention to the closing sentence in the testimony provided by Robert Marvinney of the Maine Geological Survey, as it truly summarizes the value of this bill.  His testimony provides a wealth of information without supporting or opposing the bill, and he makes the significant point, “This bill would further encourage communities to include the discussion of sea-level rise in their planning efforts, helping them to determine their vulnerabilities and chart a course of action that promotes the strategic and efficient use of municipal resources for the protection of existing and future development and protection of critical natural resources.”

Thank you for this opportunity to share our perspective on LD 408.