The state of Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline which makes it one of the states with the most, only topped by Louisiana and Florida(VisitMaine). While this makes Maine a beautiful place to live and a popular vacation spot, it also means that as water levels rise and extreme weather events continue due to climate change, the risk of flooding and damage to infrastructure increases.
According to Bloomberg.com, flood maps created by Federal Emergency Management Agency can influence where new homes are built, whether or not they need flood insurance, and what rates homeowners pay. However, in order for these decisions to be made, the maps must be correct.
In 2017 after Hurricane Harvey, it was revealed that many of the FEMA flood maps had not be updated since 1983(Bloomberg.com) which led to towns being damaged by floods but not having the proper insurance because the maps did not label them as at risk locations.
According to NPR, not only are FEMA maps outdated, but they don’t account for the effects of climate change and events like “the Hundred-year floods — floods of a magnitude that usually occur only once a century — [and] other large [weather] events are occurring bigger and more frequently than the published probabilities predict". Because of this, places that normally wouldn’t worry about floods or flood insurance are at risk and the destruction is causing financial distress for both homeowners and home buyers.
These outdated maps and increasing risk of flood damage to properties in areas of potential damage means that the value of real estate could be changing, Take Stonington, Maine as an example. After FEMA updated many maps including Stonington, “the new floodplain included properties perched high on hillsides and cliffs, nestled in protected coves, or sheltered by islands”(PacificStandard) and residents were confused and worried for what the future would hold.
Some of the most expensive homes in Maine are waterfront however, “The Bayside Adapts Report, completed in October 2017, warns the neighborhood between Back Cove and Forest, Cumberland and Washington avenues could experience sea level increase of 2-6 feet by 2100”(TheForecaster).
This information means that these waterfront properties may potentially lose value due to the risk of damage or extra costs needed to provide financial and structural protection. It also means that those properties that are further inland and “safer” from damage could experience an increase in value.
What can we do?
Well, according to Portland’s Mayor Ethan Strimling, “We can still change the outcome. It is not inevitable…if we take the right steps locally, we can help globally.”(TheForecaster). There are already two organizations working to make a difference, The Bayside Adapts project and Climate Action initiative, “which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and 100 percent clean energy municipal operations by 2040”(TheForecaster).