Maine's First Regional Sustainability and Resilience Program Tackles Climate Planning

SMPDC staff Karina Graeter and Abbie Sherwin are working to ensure a thriving, sustainable future for southern Maine's coastal towns.

The Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) is emerging as a leader on climate planning and action in Southern Maine through the organization’s innovative Regional Sustainability and Resilience Program.

Southern Maine communities are on the front lines of climate change and are already experiencing the effects of stronger, more frequent storms, rising seas, and extreme temperatures. Like most municipalities in Maine, limited budgets, insufficient staff capacity and a lack of technical expertise make planning for climate change a tremendous challenge for our towns and cities. Statewide, regional planning organizations like SMPDC are in a unique and valuable position to assist municipalities, provide technical assistance, and facilitate the flow of information and resources from state agencies to the municipal level.

In an effort to tackle climate planning and preparedness, SMPDC is working with six coastal communities – Kittery, York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells – on the state’s first Regional Sustainability and Resilience Program to help the towns address climate change impacts and advance sustainability and resilience efforts. Since its inception in late 2019, the Program has secured over $400,000 in grant funding to support sustainability and coastal resilience initiatives in the region, including a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to develop the first regional coastal resilience plan in the state. The Program is expanding municipal collaboration on climate action, including the coordination of a regional bid for a municipal solar contract to reduce municipal energy costs and emissions. It is also facilitating peer learning among municipalities on common priorities such as municipal fleet electrification and sea level rise impacts.

The Program’s home within SMPDC allows it to employ a holistic approach to climate action. SMPDC is actively working to incorporate sustainability and resilience into all of their land use, transportation, and economic development efforts. The SMPDC transportation department is working in partnership with the Greater Portland Council of Governments to develop a Maine Municipal EV Readiness Toolkit. SMPDC has also established a Small-Business Energy Audit program with funding from a USDA Rural Energy for America Program grant.

The climate crisis demands immediate action at all levels of government to help protect the people, places and heritage that we so value in Maine. Regional efforts, like those of SMPDC, that enable local action to mitigate and adapt to the effects of changing climatic conditions will undoubtedly drive our preparedness and success as a state. 

The Southern Maine Regional Sustainability and Resilience Program is helping to drive climate readiness in our municipalities; preparing them to be more resilient in the face of climate change, and serving as a model for meaningful climate action for the rest of Maine and beyond.

Co-Authored by:

Karina Graeter

Karina works collaboratively with coastal towns to develop local and regional climate action and support coastal resiliency plans. Prior to joining SMPDC, Karina served as the Sustainability Coordinator for the University of Maine. She led sustainability initiatives, reporting, and outreach activities to integrate sustainability into all aspects of the campus community. Karina studied physics and earth sciences at Bowdoin College and obtained her M.S. in earth sciences at Dartmouth College. In her free time she enjoys hiking, baking, and horseback riding.

Co-Authored by:

Abbie Sherwin

Abbie Sherwin is Senior Planner and Coastal Resilience Coordinator at Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission. Prior to joining SMPDC, Abbie was a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow with the Maine Coastal Program and Geological Survey, during which time she specialized in coastal hazards, sea level rise adaptation planning and community resilience.  She is an undergraduate of Wheaton College and holds a M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of New Hampshire.  Abbie currently resides in Kittery, ME with her dog Charlie.