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Mayor's Office

Posted on: May 16, 2019

Portland One of Two Cities in Maine Selected for Partnership to Increase Resiliency

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City of Portland officials announced today the planned unveiling of High-Water Mark (HWM) signs placed across the city to increase awareness of flood risk. The HWM signs emphasize how high the water has risen or could rise during weather related events and encourages community actions to reduce their flood risk. The City will unveil the HWM signs at Portland Pier on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 10:30 AM* and will also announce supporting outreach and mitigation efforts as part of their participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s High-Water Mark Initiative. 

Senator Angus King and Mayor Ethan Strimling, Portland City Councilors, and reps from the US Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, NOAA, State of Maine, Senator Collins staff, and Congresswoman Pingree’s staff will be on hand for the event.  

Portland is one of two places in Maine selected for this unique federal, state and city partnership to increase resiliency. The State of Maine and Leaders of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Silver Jackets team chose the City of Portland and the Town of York as the two pilot project sites for the High Water Mark Initiative. In Portland, a total of four sites will receive the HWM signs:  Portland Pier, Eastern Prom Trail, Back Cove, and Stroudwater ( Fore River Trail).

Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Over the life of a typical 30-year mortgage, home and businesses in high-risk areas have a 26% or greater chance of flooding, 2 ½ times greater than the chance of fire. But residents and businesses often take few, if any, steps to protect themselves from these potentially devastating events, opting instead to trust that, “It won’t happen here.”

“We hope these high-water marks will initiate communication among local residents who will seriously consider how floods could impact them and take at least one new step to protect themselves or their homes, said Bill Needelman, the City’s Waterfront Coordinator, and Kevin Deneault, GIS Mapping Technician. “Whether it’s making an emergency plan, preparing a supply kit, or safeguarding valuable information in waterproof containers, there are low-cost and even no-cost ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our property from floods.”

“We are excited to be a part of this inter-agency partnership and work together towards the common goal of flood risk management,” said Brian Balukonis, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District Silver Jackets Coordinator. “The Silver Jackets teams across the United States bring together multiple state, federal, and sometimes tribal and local agencies to learn from one another in reducing flood risk and other natural disasters. “ We are proud to work with the state lead Maine Silver Jackets Team and City of Portland to develop the High Water Mark Initiative project to raise the awareness of flooding along the coastline.” 

In February 1978, the “Blizzard of 1978” caused unprecedented flooding that resulted in more than $20 million in damage to public and private infrastructure in the State of Maine due to coastal flooding, tidal surge, and high winds. While the impact of the flooding was devastating, the lessons learned from it have dulled in local memory. The City is being proactive and reminding the public of the community’s history and potential for flooding, and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves should it happen again.

The City hopes these High Water Marks will provide essential educational opportunities and outreach, but most importantly, enhance the public’s awareness surrounding future flood risks. These key components will further achieve the overall goal in becoming a safer more resilient Portland. Additionally, the City has already committed to improving flood resilience through various measures including the Bayside Adapts Working Group and the Climate Action Initiative

For more information on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s High Water Mark Initiative, please visit FEMA high-water-mark-initiative and FEMA-Flood-Maps 

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