Landowners in Maine’s two most populous counties should take heed: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prepares to roll-out updated preliminary flood insurance maps for Cumberland and York counties. FEMA announced Monday it plans to issue revised flood hazard maps on April 14. This is consistent with the state’s map adoption schedule, indicating a Spring 2017 release.
Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Arizona recently released findings from tidal data collected over a two year period (2009-2010). The central conclusion of the data is this: New England sea levels are rising more rapidly than anticipated.
Although the study most likely represents a peak in data and not a permanent rise, the findings are still being held as significant. The study found that over a two year period, Northeast waters rose on average 3.9 inches with the steepest rise of 5 inches taking place in Casco Bay, off the coast of Portland, Maine. The report attributes the sharp rise to warming ocean temperatures. This conclusion builds upon the initial findings of a more long-term study undertaken by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. This study indicates that the waters of the Gulf of Maine are warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. (An informative discussion of the impacts of this trend on both marine life and fisheries can be found here.)
Data from a recently released report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (“UCS”) forecasts increased tidal flooding in the coming years for the city of Portland (see page 14 of report linked below). The report estimates that the city could see more than 60 annual flood events by 2045—that’s up from roughly a dozen in 2014. If the models are correct, we’re likely to see sweeping legislative and regulatory fixes at all levels of government—local, state and federal—in an effort to slow the rising tides, mitigate damages, and adapt where possible. The report provides additional New England-specific data and can be found here.