Maine Flood Resilience Checklist
Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission

The Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (NNECAPA) proudly presented their 2018 Project of the Year awards to the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission.

Every year, NNECAPA recognizes one project that represents significant advancement to the science and art of planning. Though many projects may be done well, only one will meet the six criteria of originality, transferability, quality, comprehensiveness, and public participation so well that they are selected to receive this award.

Coastal flooding is one of the most significant natural hazards impacting communities along Maine’s 5,300-mile coastline. The occurrence of minor and moderate coastal flooding has become significantly more frequent in the last decade. Increasing intensity and frequency of coastal storms, coupled with rising sea levels, will only exacerbate impacts of coastal flooding and threats to people, property, and the natural environment. To prepare for these intensifying threats, coastal communities need information, tools, and guidance to better understand community-wide risks and vulnerabilities posed by existing and potential future flood hazards and identify proactive steps to increase flood resilience. Furthermore, limited staff capacity and strained municipal resources require that information and guidance be packaged and received in an efficient and useful manner, and one that enables communities to take action.

The Maine Flood Resilience Checklist (FRC) is a novel and practical framework and process for municipalities to evaluate how well positioned they are to prepare for, respond to, and recover from coastal flooding events and sea level rise. It provides an integrated and practical framework for examining local flood risk, assessing vulnerability of the natural, built, and social environments, and identifying specific opportunities to enhance community-wide flood resilience to coastal flood hazards and changing environmental conditions.

Additionally, it incorporates information about FEMA’s Community Rating System, or CRS, and identifies specific ways that communities can reduce flood insurance costs by earning points through the CRS program. Municipalities complete the FRC through a community-based, facilitated discussion process in which key municipal staff and decision-makers participate in a dialogue about local flood vulnerability, how well existing plans, policies, and actions address flood hazards, and ways to enhance resilience. The FRC assists communities with integrating sea level rise considerations into comprehensive plans, strengthening local floodplain ordinances, and incorporating resilience activities into capital improvement plans.

SMPDC, in partnership with the Maine Coastal Program, Municipal Planning Assistance Program, and Geological Survey, has worked, and continues to work, with coastal Maine towns, cities, and islands to implement the FRC to help them prepare for coastal flooding and sea level rise. To date, SMPDC has worked with several communities to implement the FRC, enabling those communities to progress beyond the concept of resiliency toward the practice of resilience by identifying and carrying out tangible actions and adaptation planning strategies. The process not only engaged a diverse group of decision-makers in discussions about flood preparedness, it also enhanced information sharing across municipal departments and helps to break down department ‘silos’ that so often exist within municipal government.

Congratulations on such an accomplishment to both the City of South Portland and the art of planning.

For more information, contact the NNECAPA Awards Committee.