Using a boundary organization approach to develop a sea level rise and storm surge impact analysis framework for coastal communities in Maine

  • Philip CamillEmail author
  • Maryellen Hearn
  • Krista Bahm
  • Eileen Johnson


Sea-level rise impact assessments are urgently needed by local planners to make informed decisions about adaptation and vulnerability. Most assessments to date, however, focus on large urban centers, coastlines of economic significance, or involve physical or economic modeling expertise that may be expensive or unavailable to town planners. Despite the large number of small coastal communities in the USA, few methodologies have been developed based on locally available data and expertise. Our research team at Bowdoin College served as a boundary organization working with community stakeholders to identify and meet their needs in developing a simplified, inexpensive methodology based on widely available data to assess sea level rise (SLR) and storm surge impacts on coastal Maine communities. We used two municipalities, Brunswick and Harpswell, as case studies. LIDAR maps were used in a geographic information system framework to model SLR scenarios (projected for the year 2100) of 0.61 (2 ft), 1, and 2 m. Storm surge scenarios based on historical data were modeled additively to SLR projections. We analyzed the potential impacts of SLR and storm surge changes on land acreage, buildings, transportation networks, piers, and coastal marshes. Coastal Maine communities may face substantial impacts to land, infrastructure, intertidal ecosystems, and livelihoods. We identify issues in existing data and governance structures that make implementing this simplified analysis challenging, and we suggest recommendations for overcoming them. Our work provides a useful framework for assessing vulnerability and resilience at the municipal level and the development of subnational adaptation protocols.


Climate change Sea level rise Coast Community Infrastructure Marsh Adaptation Boundary organization Impact 



We wish to thank all of the stakeholders and community partners who made this research possible, especially Cathleen Donovan, Anna Breinich, Carol Tukey, Debbie Turner, Justin Hennessey, Malcolm Burson, Elizabeth Hertz, John Cannon, Steve Dickson, Pete Slovinsky, Heidi Bray, and Doug Marcy. Several Bowdoin students were instrumental in the analyses presented in this paper: Melissa Anson, Tom Marcello, Leah Wang, Woody Mawhinney, and Liza LePage. We thank Ellen Hines and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

13412_2011_56_MOESM1_ESM.docx (10.3 mb)
Fig. S1 LIDAR elevations for Brunswick and Harpswell, Maine relative to the NAVD88 datum (DOCX 10,509 kb)


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Copyright information

© AESS 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Camill
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maryellen Hearn
    • 1
  • Krista Bahm
    • 1
  • Eileen Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Bowdoin College, Environmental StudiesBrunswickUSA

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