Stonington Talks Climate

125 community members joined the conversation in the first of a new series sponsored by Island Institute.

Kate Klibansky, Community Development Officer
Posted 2023-12-15


Island Institute’s Dr. Susie Arnold speaks on a panel during the Talk of the Towns event in Stonington December 6th.

On Wednesday, December 6th, The Town of Stonington kicked off the first of a three-part series called “Talk of the Towns,” at the Stonington Opera House. Island Institute is sponsoring the series. The first talk: “Sea Level Rise, Warming & Storming: Navigating for Climate Resilience in Fishing Communities” featured a panel with Island Institute’s Dr. Susie Arnold, Senior Ocean Scientist and Director of the Center for Climate and Community; Kathleen Billings, Stonington Town Manager Alexa Dayton and Carla Guenther of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries; Travis Fifield of Fifield Lobster Company and Stonington Selectman; and Carl Wilson, Director of the Department of Marine Resources Bureau of Marine Science.

The trio of events is billed as “a new public conversation series on issues that bridge, matter to, and unite our communities,” adding to Stonington’s proactive stance in addressing the community’s needs.

The topics of conversation covered a range of climate related issues, including impacts on the lobster industry, the invasion of green crabs, opportunities for aquaculture, potential climate-resilient improvements to the Stonington Fish Pier, and what individuals can do to address climate change.

During the conversation, Kathleen Billings shared with the crowd the climate-related work the Town is currently engaged in. Stonington is enrolled in the Community Resilience Partnership and recently received a Community Action Grant to match three other grants supporting their climate-related work: a Shore and Harbor Management Planning Grant to improve coastal waterfront climate resilience and access along Main Street, a Coastal Communities Planning grant to improve coastal waterfront climate resilience and access along Fifield Point Road, and a significant Northern Borders Regional Commission Catalyst Grant to raise Oceanville Road which will address climate resiliency in the local infrastructure, especially for the lobster industry and other products critical to Maine’s coastal economy. Linda Nelson, the energetic facilitator of the event and Economic and Community Development Director of Stonington, has been a central figure alongside Kathleen Billings in getting these grants across the finish line.

Kathleen and Linda said “We were thrilled to have more than 125 citizens show up in Stonington for this important civic conversation on a Wednesday night in December. The goal of these free public conversations is to inform, energize, and engage members of our regional communities as active citizens grappling with large issues. We’re stronger together and look forward to tackling additional issues at similar gatherings in 2024.”

Dr. Arnold was impressed with the turnout and engagement saying, “With the leadership of Linda and Kathleen, along with the support of residents and organizations along the coast, Stonington is a model for climate action, and the work they are doing is a source of hope in the face of rapid change.”

Island Institute’s sponsorship of these conversations is just a part of our broader work in the region to find sustainable climate and economic solutions:

  • The Town of Stonington is also in the midst of the scoping process alongside Deer Isle for the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP), a federally funded technical assistance program for which Island Institute is the Regional Partner. Through ETIPP, Stonington and Deer Isle will gain technical knowledge and build plans to address energy reliability and resilience on the island. This work will support future grant applications for energy-related projects.
  • Through our ShoreUp grant for community sea level rise projects, Island Institute has supported Peninsula Tomorrow—a collaborative effort across multiple towns on the Blue Hill Peninsula. This initiative assists nine towns in the region with technical support, grant research, and writing to facilitate their applications for federal and state climate resilience funds.
  • Additionally, three Island Institute Fellows are currently active on the peninsula: Grace Carrier with Brooklin’s Climate Response Team, Katie Liberman with Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School After School Program, and Alice Crockerman with Hancock County Planning Commission.