Maine establishes commission in response to devastating storms

May 24, 2024

Maine Gov. Janet Mills has signed an executive order to establish a commission that will help the state prepare for increased storm activity expected in the coming years.

The Maine Infrastructure Rebuilding and Resilience Commission is made up of 24 members, including state and local officials, experts and representatives from affected communities and industries. The members will focus on managing funds, documenting storm-mitigation efforts and developing plans and recommendations for state and local policy.

In December 2023 and January 2024, Maine was hit with several devastating storms that caused an estimated $90 million in damage to public infrastructure. Another storm in April caused $3.5 million in damage. The state has had to ask for federal funding and disaster declarations in response to the devastation.

As severe storms become more frequent, the commission is one step in developing comprehensive plans to protect people and critical infrastructure from the effects of climate change. The commission will advance and support the state’s approach to managing recent disasters and provide recommendations for improving long-term resilience.

“After signing my eighth request for a disaster declaration, it’s clear to me that there is more work to do to plan and prepare for future disasters like those we’ve just experienced,” Mills said in a statement delivered at the Stonington Lobster Co-Op, a business that suffered severe storm damage in January. “We must ask the hard questions about what we can, and must, do to strengthen our ability to withstand storms that are increasingly more severe and dangerous and that pose a real threat to our infrastructure, our people, and our economy.”

During the past legislative session, at the behest of Governor Mills, the legislature approved $60 million in storm recovery funding as part of the supplement budget. The funds will be used to repair, rebuild and adapt infrastructure to withstand the severe storms that are becoming more common. The new commission’s responsibilities include ensuring “Maine is maximizing the use of all federal, state, municipal and private funding resources available for storm recovery,” according to the executive order.

The commission will issue an interim report by Nov. 15, 2024, and a final report no later than May 15, 2025. The reports will provide valuable insights and recommendations for improving Maine’s resilience to increasingly severe weather events and supporting affected communities in their recovery and rebuilding efforts.

The commission will be co-chaired by Linda Nelson, director of economic and community development for the town of Stonington, and Dan Tishman, a principal and chairman of Tishman Realty & Construction. The Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future will provide staff support for the commission.

“The effects of a changing climate are exceeding our projections, and has put our working waterfronts, our Main Street, our harbors, our access to the mainland, and our community at urgent risk,” Nelson said in a press release.

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