Resilience in Portland, ME

Portland's working waterfront and historic downtown
Portland's working waterfront and historic downtown

Portland residents and business owners experience the impacts of rising sea-levels and more frequent, intense floods as a result to heavy rainfall on the city’s aging stormwater systems. Nowhere is the threat of climate change on property and infrastructure more visible than in the Bayside neighborhood, the lowest elevation in the city. The Leadership in Community Resilience grant was utilized to support the Bayside Adapts Design Challenge, organized in collaboration between the city’s Sustainability Office, Economic Development Department, and Department of Public Works. The design challenge brought together city leadership, residents, businesses, and the design community in Portland to have the first public-facing and engaging open house on resilient planning and climate adaptation practices.

Situated between a permeable berm, Bayside faces flooding from rising sea levels as well as inland stormwater runoff. Although relatively few residents and businesses are currently located in the neighborhood, it is seen as a prime area for expansion as development begins to emanate from downtown. When updates to Portland’s Comprehensive Plan were underway in 2016, the city began to integrate climate adaptation and mitigation strategies into big-vision thinking while forming a new initiative to plan for a more resilient Bayside in the face of climate change.

Threats and Hazards

State of Maine incurs natural hazards such as extreme heat, severe storms and record flooding. Social resilience is limited by the fact that areas most vulnerable to sea-level rise and flooding are rising. According to the National Climate Assessment, sea level increased 1.2 feet over 100 years (1901-2012). "Sea level rise of two feet, without any changes in storms, would more than triple the frequency of dangerous coastal flooding throughout most of the Northeast."  


  • Green Infrastructure
  • Disaster Mitigation 
  • Design Challenge
Program Area