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The town of Kennebunk, along with its coastal neighbors in five southern York County communities, will come together to fund a pilot staff position at Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission designed to look at sea level rise, storm surge implications and a host of other related issues. (Tammy Wells file photo)

Maine: Towns will collaborate, participate in sea rise study

KENNEBUNK — Selectmen have agreed to spend $7,500 this year and are expected to invest $15,000 in the next fiscal year to help fund a two-year staff position at Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission designed to help communities prepare for rising sea levels, coastal resiliency and related issues.

The town is joining with its neighbors in Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Kittery and York to fund the position and provide required matching funds, should SMPDC be successful in receiving a federal Economic Development Administration grant to provide for ongoing efforts.

All of the communities are being asked to contribute the same amount.

“This is a very small investment for a very large return,” said Kennebunk Town Manager Michael Pardue. “Seventy-five hundred dollars for half a year gives us a toe in the water, and the proposal is for $15,000 the following year.”

For the full two-year pilot program, a further $7,500 is expected to required about 1½ years in.

“This is an important issue, and it grew out of the six communities,” said SMPDC Director of Land Use and Planning Lee Jay Feldman.”We’ll hone in on sea level rise, tax implications based on storm surge, and assessing energy consumption.”

In a letter to the communities, SMPDC Executive Director Paul Schumacher said the staffer would work with all six communities and their various committees dealing with energy, sustainability, climate change and sea level rise.

“The communities currently are in different places with respect to what has been done or is needed.” said Schumacher . “We are ready to take that into account, so the support will be tailored to each community. “

He noted that three of the towns — Kennebunk, York and Wells received a Maine Coastal Program award of $75,000 to study sea level rise implications for municipal infrastructure and finances.

“I think it will be useful,” said Selectman Wayne Berry.

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