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Updated: February 12, 2024

$54M targeted to coastal storm resilience and rebuilding in Maine

Photo / Fred Field An overturned skiff floats near the Harbormaster’s building at the Falmouth Town Landing amid the storm of Jan. 13, 2024.

The Mills administration has two measures underway to help coastal Maine communities rebuild and become more resilient after January’s devastating storms. 

The office of Gov. Janet Mills is looking to expedite a $50 million proposal to help communities rebuild infrastructure and enhance climate resiliency. 

And last week, the administration announced the availability of $4.4 million in federal funds to help Maine's electrical grid withstand the effects of extreme storms.

Rainy Day Fund, indeed

During her State of the State Address on Jan. 30, Mills proposed to invest $50 million in the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund to help Maine communities rebuild in the wake of the recent storms and ensure their infrastructure can withstand the impacts of extreme storms in the future. 

The money would come from Maine’s record-high Budget Stabilization Fund, known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”

Mills said she would introduce the proposal in standalone legislation, rather than as part of her forthcoming supplemental budget, in order to more quickly advance the bill through the legislative process.

“Communities hard hit by the recent storms are in need of help, and we want to deliver that help as soon as possible,” said Mills. “By considering this proposal apart from the supplemental budget, I hope we can more quickly move it through the Legislature and, ultimately, distribute these vital funds to Maine communities with urgent needs faster.”

The Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund, created in 2021, provides grants for significant infrastructure adaptation, repair and improvements that support public safety, protection of essential community assets, and long-term infrastructure resiliency.

Project types may include working waterfront infrastructure, culverts, storm water systems, water system upgrades, and other interventions that support reducing or eliminating climate impacts, especially coastal and inland flooding. 

The funds are intended for public infrastructure projects with exemptions available for some types of private infrastructure upgrades with significant community benefits, such as working waterfronts.

The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming days. 

Increasing resilience

Mills also announced the availability of $4.4 million in federal funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to increase the resilience of Maine's electrical grid to the effects of extreme storms.

The funds will be administered by the Governor’s Energy Office through the Maine Grid Resilience Program, which will support resilience projects such as weatherizing critical technology and equipment, moving electrical infrastructure underground, and improving vegetation and utility pole management, among others.

The funds come after a series of severe winter storms in December and January caused significant devastation to communities, several millions of dollars in infrastructure damage, and left hundreds of thousands of Mainers without power for several days across the state.

“We know we can expect more severe storms in the future, which means that we need to take act now to strengthen our electrical grid, and that’s exactly what the Grid Resilience Program will do,” said Mills. 

The investments are expected to improve the electrical grid and reduce the frequency and duration of power outages.

“With the frequency and severity of storms expected to increase as a result of climate change, it’s imperative that we make smart investments in our electrical grid to mitigate and reduce future impacts,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “Through this program, our goal is to empower Maine households, businesses and communities to be resilient to future disruptive events.”

GEO was awarded the money from the U.S. Department of Energy. The office anticipates receiving another $6.6 million in future Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for additional grid resilience projects in forthcoming years.

Eligible entities include electric utilities, electricity generators, storage operators and others. In addition to supporting grid resilience, the program aims to support Maine’s climate and clean energy goals and further expand Maine’s clean energy economy, which is the fastest growing in New England, according to a news release.

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