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Report: 8,200 Maine Properties At Substantial Flood Risk

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
A motorist drives through flooding water in Portland, Maine, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.

A new national report shows that the risk of damaging floods will rise in Maine over the next 30 years, as climate change drives more extreme weather and rising sea levels. But the report by the nonprofit First Street Foundation also indicates that Maine is less at risk than most East Coast states.

Report author Jeremy Porter says that’s because the biggest threat emerging for the U.S. is from ever more frequent and powerful storms originating in the tropics to the southeast.

“So now you’re seeing places like New Jersey and New York and Maryland being impacted by these strong tropical storms and hurricanes. But the biggest impacts tend to be along the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic up to the mid-Atlantic coast,” he says.

The report projects that this year, about 8,200 Maine properties face substantial flood risk, and that will cause a total of about $27 million in damage. That annual cost is expected to rise by 11% within 30 years. Some individual communities could see a greater risk, though, with Old Town, on the Penobscot River, projected to see a 39% increase.

And the report estimates that federal flood insurance premiums Maine homeowners pay over the 30-year period will fall far short of damage compensation they will receive, by about $714 million. That’s a problem nationwide, with taxpayers subsidizing the shortfall.

The First Street Foundation is pushing for a better balance between premiums and actual flood risks. It’s also created an online map that provides flood-risk estimates at the property level. You can find that at floodfactor.com.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.