Island and coastal communities are on the front line of the impacts associated with sea level rise, a persistent and long-term problem.

The predicted impacts on homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure including working waterfronts could structurally change the communities and economies along our coast. These changes may happen over a long period of time, or they may happen abruptly if we are hit with a large storm.

The needs of communities are different for addressing and adapting to sea level rise. Some are seeing threats to their downtowns, others have working waterfront infrastructure at risk, still others are concerned about underground utilities, water supplies, and wastewater treatment plants being inundated. Sea level rise impacts communities in a variety of ways that will require unique solutions.

The Sea Level Rise Resiliency project team conducts research and outreach to engage and assist interested coastal and island community leaders in adapting to climate change, and works to ensure informed and networked partners to advocate and streamline needed policies in support of businesses and municipalities to plan and build infrastructure that improves their resilience to sea level rise and other climate change effects.

How can your community become more resilient to sea level rise?

  • Start the Conversation: Initiate community conversations through town meetings, informal discussions, documentation of inundation and other impacts​ and active networks with others grappling with similar problems
  • Risk Assessment: Better understand the risks related to storm damage, and how these risks are projected to change due to sea level rise through a risk assessment
  • Formalize a Plan: Translate this increased understanding into informed decision-making and actionable steps to enhance resiliency by formalizing a plan
  • Funding and Adaptation: Secure funding and begin construction of mitigation and adaptation measures ​


Tools and Resources to Help Guide Your Community

A climate of change: sea level rise

The fifth film in our ongoing climate-related documentary series, A Climate of Change: Sea Level Rise follows the community of Vinalhaven, Maine, over a two-year period as they have conversations around planning for and responding to sea level rise on the island. It highlights some of the challenges they face, but more importantly, shows us how a small, yet engaged community can lead the way to planning for change.


Sea Level Rise in Maine

Sea Level Rise is Happening! Created for the Island Institute, this O’Chang Comics / Puckerbrush Animation original calls attention to the challenges of increased coastal flooding, storm surge events, and sea level rise impacts for Maine communities.


Shore Up Maine

Technical Assistance for Communities Addressing Sea Level Rise

Communities along the Maine coast are taking steps to address coastal flooding exacerbated by sea level rise. Each community faces unique challenges particular to their working waterfront, existing infrastructure and citizen engagement. Because of that, each community is taking a different approach to mitigating and planning for the impacts of rising seas.

The Island Institute’s Community Impact Fund offers flexible funding and support, so that communities can plan for the assistance they need to start taking the steps that are right for them. Through our ShoreUp grants, we offer funding support in the amount of $10,000 to help Maine’s island and coastal communities with infrastructure planning for sea level rise.

Learn more here or contact us with any questions. For application details, click here.


  • For a basic primer on what sea level rise is, the impacts to coastal communities, and some attainable steps see Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding: The Basics for Maine Communities.
  • Check out the first in our three-part Economic Impact Study – The Cost of Sea Level Rise – Vinalhaven Edition – an interactive story map that walks one through the challenges faced by an island community.
  • Take a look at the Maine Flood Resiliency Checklist, a self-assessment tool for Maine’s coastal communities to evaluate vulnerability to flood hazards and increase resilience.
  • To share stories around the challenge of planning for sea level rise resiliency, and provide additional resources to help communities here and beyond, we continue to develop our What Works Solutions Library. Solutions are shared in the library about communities struggles to protect their working waterfront infrastructure and downtowns from impending inundation.  Learn more in the Addressing a Changing Climate section of the Solutions Library under Preparing for Rising Seas.


For more information on how to advance sea level rise resiliency in your community, contact Kendra Jo Grindle  with our Sea Level Rise Resiliency team.

For questions regarding financial support through our Community Impact Fund, contact us here.