A draft plan from the Resiliency and Sustainability Committee identifies short-term and long-term actions to reduce the town’s carbon footprint and adapt to climate change.
The committee presented its sustainability plan during a public hearing on July 21. Committee Chair Mary Ann Nahf outlined key aspects of the plan and fielded questions and comments. Nahf described the plan as a “living document.”
“This is going to be a long, slow process,” Nahf said. “Things are going to change as we go along, just as technology is changing almost weekly and monthly. We want this to be reviewed periodically, every 2 1/2 years or so, by the committee, and pull in some different priorities that may have evolved over that period of time.”
The plan’s highest priorities in the short term include reducing the carbon footprint of the town office — for example, by upgrading to LED lights — and identifying needs for improvements to town roads that are vulnerable to sea level rise. Lower priorities in the short term are plans to “develop and implement a comprehensive community information program about climate change” and “evaluate the potential for a Town-owned solar facility.”
The town currently subscribes to a community solar project and will continue to rely on this subscription for the majority of its electricity needs for now, but the evaluation will include “a feasibility study to assess if the former landfill sites behind the recycling center are suitable for use as a community solar array,” according to the draft plan.
Members of the public proposed additions to the plan, such as limiting construction in areas susceptible to sea level rise and facilitating individual households’ transition to solar power. One commenter suggested raising the priority level of education and outreach efforts.
The plan also details long-term goals, such as installing electric vehicle charging stations at the Town Office and establishing incentives to attract clean energy businesses to Harpswell.
Town Administrator Kristi Eiane floated the possibility of adding a position specifically for sustainability efforts, given the difficulties of implementing aspects of the plan.
“Just from a capacity standpoint, implementing these ideas — we might need to consider some position that has some experience or interest in sustainability and resiliency, and having that as part of our regular staff expertise,” Eiane said. Eiane said that many other communities are beginning to add this staff role.
The Resiliency and Sustainability Committee is still accepting comments on the plan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The committee will meet on Tuesday, Aug. 2 to finalize the plan before it goes to the Board of Selectmen for approval. The meeting will take at 3:45 p.m. via Zoom. To attend, go to harpswell.maine.gov and navigate to the town calendar, then the meeting link.
Because it aligns with the state’s four-year plan for climate action, Maine Won’t Wait, Harpswell’s plan will allow the town to apply for grants through the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.