Maine to spend $25 million to rebuild waterfront after devastating winter storms and flooding

FILE - A car sits in a flooded parking lot at Widgery Wharf in this Jan. 10, 2024, in Portland, Maine. Maine's government is making tens of millions of dollars available to rebuild the state's working waterfront communities after a series of devastating winter storms pummeled the state's docks, wharfs and coastal businesses. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

By PATRICK WHITTLE Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s government will spend tens of millions of dollars to rebuild the state’s working waterfront communities after a series of devastating winter storms pummeled the state’s docks, wharves and coastal businesses.

The back-to-back storms hammered the Northeast in January and hit Maine and New Hampshire especially hard, bringing flooding and heavy damage to dozens of businesses. State officials in Maine said the storms, which were later declared a “major disaster” by President Joe Biden, caused about $70 million in damage in the state.

Applications for funding are now available to repair and rebuild working waterfront areas damaged by the storms, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday. The $25 million being made available is part of a $60 million rebuilding package approved by the Maine Legislature for storm rebuilding, Mills said.

“This important funding will help rebuild damaged wharves and piers that commercial fishermen, and, by extension, our coastal communities and our entire state, depend on for our livelihoods and our economy,” Mills said.

The winter storms also caused sand dune erosion in New Hampshire, flooded parts of New Jersey and caused widespread damage elsewhere on the East Coast. Scientists who study the intersection of climate change, sea level rise and storms said they were the kind of weather events that are becoming more common as the planet warms. Worldwide sea levels have also risen faster since 1900.

Such storms are “the new norm,” and have illustrated how vulnerable Maine’s marine economy is, said Pat Keliher, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

“This is the first step in investing in this critical infrastructure. Our working waterfront must be preserved for future generations by ensuring it is resilient to a changing climate,” Keliher said.

The funding will be made available to rebuild wharves and piers that provide a “significant and compelling community benefit” to Maine commercial fishing and aquaculture, state officials said in a statement. The state is making the funding available as the state has made strides to try to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030.