Camden may have a new tourist attraction by mid-century: “Captain Nemo Underwater Tours” of the proposed Lyman-Morse redevelopment along the inner harbor’s east side.
By 2050, the conservative estimate for sea-level rise is 1.5 feet, and communities – according to page 72 of the newly completed Scientific Assessment of Climate Change and Its Effects in Maine – should be “prepared to manage” a 3-foot rise. By 2100, scientists expect that sea level will rise between 3.9 and 8.8 feet. Those figures don’t factor in storm surge.
To visualize the flooding impact, zoom in on the state’s sea-level-rise viewer and see how – at 3.9 feet – the largest and highest Lyman-Morse warehouse is partly submerged, with the entire tier of proposed new buildings underwater.
In 2017, students at the Watershed school did a detailed analysis of how sea-level rise would affect Camden and noted that “Camden land that will be underwater by mid to late century should not be built on now.”
The Camden Planning Board should follow the students’ advice. Its zoning ordinance needs to be updated to reflect sea-level rise – before any decision is made on proposed waterfront construction. The Town should put a moratorium on any waterfront development until that updated zoning ordinance is in place.
Approving projects along the shoreline – without factoring in sea-level rise – is an invitation to disaster.
Marina Schauffler lives in Camden