The town of Damariscotta will receive a $3 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration to make flood-protection and infrastructure improvements to the downtown waterfront area.
“Damariscotta is a vibrant and historic town, which is home to many successful small businesses and a booming tourism industry,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement. “Major storm surges have the potential to drastically disrupt both the local economy and the region’s way of life, and this funding will help ensure that this community is prepared to weather these events.
“We welcome this funding to upgrade Damariscotta’s local infrastructure, improve economic and coastal resiliency, and protect the region from future natural disasters and storms.”
Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus welcomed the news.
“This grant will allow the town to move forward on waterfront-related improvements that have been in the planning stages for more than a decade,” Lutkus said in an email. Many town officials, business owners, and others have contributed to the effort, he said.
Waterfront improvements will include measures to protect the historic downtown from the growing threats of sea level rise and storm surge, as well as construction of public restrooms, reconstruction of the parking lot, construction of a drainage and sewer system, pedestrian improvements, and a kiosk with information about local businesses, according to Lutkus.
“By strengthening the public infrastructure, the improvements funded through the grant will help protect more than 300 jobs and help maintain the town’s thriving commercial center,” Lutkus said.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the grant in a statement Wednesday, April 15.
The administration of President Donald Trump “is working hard to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure and improve economic resilience in the wake of natural disasters,” Ross said in the statement. “These investments in the town of Damariscotta will support the new flood-prevention infrastructure needed to protect business and attract additional private investment to the region.”
Dana Gartzke, an official in the Commerce Department, explained how the project will function to protect businesses and the jobs they provide.
“By raising and paving parking lots, installing a retaining wall, stabilizing the shoreline, and improving drainage, businesses will be able to stay open during floods, maintain their workforce, and grow the tourism sector,” Gartzke said in the statement.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree focused on the project’s relationship to climate change. Pingree represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Lincoln County.
“The climate crisis will spur increased natural disasters like flooding across our country,” Pingree said in the statement. “In Maine, towns like Damariscotta will see an increase in coastal flooding because of climate change. The federal government must step up and prepare our coastal communities in the face of increased threats.
“This $3 million grant from (the Economic Development Administration) will increase Damariscotta’s resiliency and protect a community that relies on its relationship with the sea. I’m looking forward to seeing this grant in action and I thank (the Economic Development Administration) for investing in our community.”
Some details of the project remain in flux and the town will invite public participation as it moves forward.
The Damariscotta Waterfront Improvement Project Committee will continue its work, “with lots of fine-tuning yet to occur,” Lutkus said. “During the coming months, there will be a number of opportunities for citizens and businesses to provide their ideas on what the final plans will look like.”
“The townspeople owe a special thanks to the individuals and businesses that made $1.3 million in donations for the waterfront improvements,” Lutkus said. “These donations provided the leverage (the local match) that made for a successful grant application.”
The federal grant is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, in which Congress appropriated $600 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance Program funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; wildfires; and other 2017 natural disasters.
The mission of the Economic Development Administration is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. The agency makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.