STONINGTON — Imagine a house where an incoming ocean tide laps over the living room floor.
Deer Isle visual artist Jeffrey Becton has created such scenes in his work, which one art critic has described as “serene and treacherous.”
Is Becton exercising artistic license or prescience?
Rising sea tides are a concern for the town of Stonington and its downtown, which is sea-adjacent.
To that end, the town recently landed a $60,000 grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry to assess Stonington’s vulnerability to rising sea levels.
The project will pinpoint what parts of the town and infrastructure are vulnerable to sea level rise and what could be done to make those properties more resilient, said Henry Teverow, the town’s economic development director.
Stonington has contracted with engineering firm GEI Consultants, which is based in Portland.
The engineers are looking at roads, sewer lines, pumping stations and any other critical, publicly-owned infrastructure in Stonington.
That includes looking at the aptly named Oceanville Road, the town’s longest.
“That’s going to be a problem,” said Stonington Selectman Evelyn Duncan. “If we have a high storm it floods now.”
Another concern is a low area surrounding the Burnt Cove Market as well as a bridge that connects Stonington to Deer Isle.
Downtown is another issue.
A whole line of buildings “hang out over the water,” Duncan said. That includes the Stonington Fire Department, the basement for which floods during storms.
The consultants will come up with options to mitigate or adapt to flooding so the town can continue using whatever is affected — whether road, sewer system or another type of infrastructure.
The project will help guide Stonington’s capital investments in infrastructure.
Teverow said there would be public meetings about the project.
Duncan said sea rise “has tentacles” that reach beyond loss of property.
Many scientists cite climate change as a cause of sea level rise.
Duncan asked if warming water would result in invasive species affecting the lobster industry.
“It’s not just the water level. It’s what adverse effect is the change in temperature going to have on our main economic engine,” she said.
Homes in Maine lost nearly $70 million in value due to sea level rise between 2005 and 2017, according to a Jan. 22 press release from the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based First Street Foundation. The foundation describes itself as a tech nonprofit that quantifies and communicates the impacts of sea level rise and flooding.
Most of the lost value has occurred in southern Maine. To date, the town of Stonington has not lost any property value to rising tides, according to Teverow.
Increased tidal flooding caused by sea level rise has eroded $403.1 million in home values in New England between 2005 and 2017, the foundation stated.
“Coastal homes in Massachusetts were hit hardest, losing $273.4 million in relative appreciation.”
Homeowners can learn how much value their personal property is projected to lose over the next 15 years at FloodiQ.com, which is a project run by First Street Foundation.
Stonington also won a $30,000 grant to examine sea rise issues as they relate to the town’s commercial fish pier, Teverow said.
The grant also will let the town examine the possibility of dredging around the pier.
The Maine Geological Survey released last month “newly updated scenarios for potential inundation for the coast from the highest astronomical tide in addition to scenarios of sea level rise and/or storm surge.”