Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today visited several coastal First District communities hit hard by the barrage of damaging December and January storms. During stops in Port Clyde and Rockland, Pingree surveyed the costly damage to working waterfronts and met with local officials and fishermen to learn about ongoing recovery efforts. Pingree, who is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee, is leading a bipartisan effort in Congress to support coastal communities grappling with the climate crisis and preserve the character of coastal communities by protecting jobs, commercial activities, and public access to America’s coast.
Port Clyde Fisherman’s Co-Op Manager Gerry Cushman, right, recalls how high the water was during the January storms. Port Clyde and Tenants Harbor were among the areas most damaged during the winter storms earlier this month.
“In just one month, Maine has endured three devastating storms that have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage to both our inland and coastal communities, downtowns, and working waterfronts. I am so proud of how communities—like mine on North Haven, and so many others along the coast and throughout the state—have come together in the aftermath of these storms. I am grateful I got a chance to see a glimpse of Mainers’ tremendous resilience on display today,” said Pingree. “These storms have made one thing abundantly clear: climate change is no longer a far-off threat. More frequent, intense storms, floods, and rising sea levels mean our communities will continuously be faced with the kind of devastation we’ve seen over the past few weeks. But these impacts are not their burden to bear alone, and I am wholly committed to working to not only helping our communities recover but helping build back stronger and more resilient.”
Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell, left, describes the extensive damage to piers in Rockland Harbor to Congresswoman Pingree, center, and Candice Richards, Director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency.
In the afternoon, Pingree joined Governor Janet Mills and members of the Maine Climate Council for a special meeting to discuss the impacts of the recent storms on Maine and Maine people and how the state can strengthen its resilience to future extreme weather events. During the meeting, Pingree, the Governor, and the Council heard from agencies and communities on the frontlines of the storm response about trends in extreme weather in Maine and strategies for strengthening resilience on the state and local level.
Governor Mills and Congresswoman Pingree during the Climate Council meeting on Tuesday.
“This is bigger than any of us. We’re no longer talking about a 100-year flood or a 300-year flood,” Pingree said in her remarks at the Climate Council meeting. “This isn't the only time we're going to see this [kind of] storm. How do we think ahead to create that kind of resilience and strength in our coastal communities? How do we think in the future? […] It's kind of scary thinking out into the future. It's scary for all of our communities, but we're not going to be able to think ahead if we can't find these ways to work together. So, I'm just really grateful to be here.”
Last week, Pingree and other members of Maine’s Congressional Delegation wrote to President Biden in support of Governor Mills’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration to help address the extreme winter storm damage across ten Maine counties that occurred in December. Initial estimates placed the cost of damage to public infrastructure alone at $20 million.
At the direction of Governor Mills, Maine Emergency Management Agency has also requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) begin conducting a Preliminary Damage Assessment of last week's storms that brought historic flooding to the Maine coast, destroying homes, roads, buildings, docks, and iconic landmarks. The request is the first formal step toward requesting another Major Disaster Declaration from the Federal government.
Pingree and Congressman Rob Wittman’s (R-Va.) Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act legislation aims to preserve America’s working waterfronts by creating a grant program and preservation loan fund to provide funding options for waterfront preservation and improvement projects. The legislation passed the House in the 116th Congress. Click here to learn more.
Pingree has long advocated for federal resources to help Maine communities preserve and expand shoreline access and infrastructure for water-dependent industries such as fishing, boat building, and aquaculture. She first introduced legislation to protect working waterfronts in the 111th Congress.