Acadia National Park’s carriage roads and other park facilities sustained extensive damage during a severe rainstorm June 9, 2021. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Study of Acadia erosion, flooding risks proposed 

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Scientists at Acadia and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) want to determine which areas in the park are most vulnerable to erosion and flood damage from heavy rains. 

The USGS New England Water Science Center has submitted a proposal to that agency’s Natural Resources Preservation Program (NRPP) for a project to identify the most vulnerable road and trail crossings over streams in the park and “the most vulnerable associated sensitive downstream ecosystems.” 

“Knowing which streams are at greatest risk of erosion and which resources are at greatest risk from flood damage will help guide and prioritize the appropriate degree of repair, restoration or replacement of damaged or failing infrastructure and the prevention and mitigation strategies for associated natural resource damage,” the USGS said in its proposal. 

“This vulnerability assessment will be a first step towards building a…hydraulic design tool that incorporates climate change projections and provides infrastructure designs that can quickly be adapted to help rebuild damaged bridges and culverts following extreme events.” 

The USGS noted that climate change is affecting the amount and intensity of precipitation at Acadia. The park now gets an average of 6 more inches of rain per year than it did 100 years ago. 

“Events with 3 inches of rain in a 24-hour period used to occur once 

every two to five years, but now happen once a year on average,” the USGS said. “Short-duration, high-volume storms increasingly result in costly emergency repairs to infrastructure that must be implemented with little warning and no time to plan for designs that incorporate the best available hydrology and a changing climate to ensure maximum resilience and visitor safety.” 

On June 9, 2001, a storm dumped nearly 4 inches of rain in three hours in the area of Chasm Brook, causing erosion and bridge washouts that closed 10 miles of carriage roads. 

“A mix of gravel, sand, cobble  and roadside vegetation from the blowouts was spread to forests, streams and wetlands in the area,” the USGS reported.  

“The same storm caused complete destruction of a segment of the historic Maple Spring Trail that lies within a stream corridor. The current condition in this section is a near total loss of nearly a quarter mile of tread surface, historic stonework – 72 steps and about 2,400 square feet of retaining wall – unstable boulders, undercut banks and destroyed bridges.” 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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