Peninsula explores regional approach to global problem



BLUE HILL — Town officials and community members across the Blue Hill Peninsula will come together early next month to explore potential cooperative efforts to address climate change at a regional level. 

“It makes sense to be thinking regionally,” said Allen Kratz, a member of the Brooksville Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Committee who helped plan the peninsula-wide climate change conference. “The ocean doesn’t respect municipal boundaries.” 

An informal group of people who were on similar committees to Kratz in neighboring towns recently formed and came up with the idea for the event, with hopes that it could help spark planning for climate change across the nine towns on the peninsula. 

“This is not a local issue,” said Deer Isle Town Manager Jim Fisher, who helped plan the event. “It’s a global issue that we are thinking locally about how we can respond to it.” 

The conference will be held virtually on June 4, and several state leaders will be at the meeting, including Cassaundra Rose of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, who will be reviewing the Maine Climate Council’s recent analysis of the cost of doing nothing to address climate change. 

Susie Arnold, with the Island Institute, will help facilitate the meeting and update participants on the latest science around climate change.  

Several other officials will outline how existing and federal programs can help towns fund and finance climate mitigation and adaptation, and there will be a review of how towns can use coronavirus funds and local fiscal recovery funds to fund climate change projects such as water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.

Fisher has been working with issues related to sea level rise for decades and said towns are all working on comprehensive plans at different levels. But this could help show how those plans could all fit together, because what happens in one town on the peninsula will affect the others, he said.

Another effort to take a more regional look is happening at the Hancock County Planning Commission. Jarod Farn-Guilette, the agency’s executive director, has been working on a map that shows what public infrastructure is at risk not only from sea level rise, but also from climate change.  

It will layer several pieces of data to show what public infrastructure is at risk from rising tides and will indicate what areas are susceptible to things such as storm surges and sunny day flooding. This could be critically important when it comes to essential infrastructure such as bridges, causeways, culverts and school septic systems.

The map is starting with the Blue Hill Peninsula, but Farn-Guillette hoped it would radiate out to all of Hancock County.  

“The idea is that every town will get their own individual map, if they want it, and use that to start making planning decisions and really using it as a way to start discussion and get people talking about where they want to prioritize things,” Farn-Guillette said.

At the June 4 meeting, participants will be invited to express interest in further collaboration for the next 12 months.  

There is a group in the Portland area that is already taking a similar regional approach, said Kendra Jo Grindle, a member of the event planning committee and a senior community development officer at the Island Institute.  

Banding together can help pool knowledge and bring in more resources when it comes to applying for climate change grants and other aid, which have become a higher priority for state and federal leaders.  

“From what we’ve seen in southern Maine and elsewhere in the United States, there is a real benefit to having regional conversations and regional actions,” she said.   

Those wishing to attend the event can register at https://islandinstitute.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAqceqoqzwjHt3rI3F1edp0O73_XK0f_-e2. 

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Ethan is the maritime reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He also covers Bar Harbor. When he's not reporting, you'll likely find him wandering trails while listening to audiobooks. Send tips, story ideas and favorite swimming holes in Hancock County to [email protected]