Five months after a late December storm caused millions of dollars in damages throughout Maine, some coastal harbors are still undergoing repairs.
The storm, which resulted in a federal disaster declaration across six counties, caused varying amounts of damage in midcoast communities. For instance, Belfast had an estimated $120,000 in damage while other coastal towns like Lincolnville only had minor damage.
In Camden, there was roughly $175,000 in damages to the town’s public wharf and boardwalk after a combination of an already high tide coupled with storm surge led to heavy flooding, said Harbor Master Steve Pixley.
“Basically, we lost our wharf,” Pixley said.
The entire boardwalk required new wooden planking with new concrete and rebar foundations beneath, Pixley said. Several granite stones that make up the wharf’s lower foundation were displaced and needed to be shifted back. Some wooden pilings supporting and floats also needed to be replaced, he said.
That’s damage that Camden has opted to fix without waiting for federal disaster funds.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials visited the site following the storm to assess the damages, but Town Manager Audra Caler said waiting on federal funding could have meant the wharf and boardwalk would be closed during the summer.
“There was just no way we could shut the boardwalk down during the high season, so we decided to bite the bullet and just fix it,” Caler said.
The town’s public works department, along with a local contractor, began the repairs on March 19 with the hopes that the town will be at least partially reimbursed with federal funding, she said. The work was recently completed, and FEMA officials are expected to tour the site Wednesday. They are also expected to tour other damaged sites during the visit.
But the storm damage varied greatly across midcoast communities, officials said. Towns like Lincolnville and Boothbay Harbor only suffered minor damages because the storm winds were in their favor.
“We had rough seas in the harbor, but it wasn’t catastrophic,” said Lincolnville Harbor Master David Kinney.
The town suffered some flooding along Route 1 due to the storm surge, but Kinney said that is typical for the town during stronger storms and it didn’t result in any lasting damage.
Boothbay Harbor was hit by 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts during the December storm, but aside from a few floats coming loose, the port was sheltered from any major damage, said Harbor Master Robert Leavitt.
Other towns, like Searsport, didn’t fare quite as well.
Harbor Master Wayne Hamilton said their wharf suffered fairly minor damages to its railings, but some private sea walls suffered heavy damages. One wooden sea wall owned by a Searsport resident may have to be entirely replaced, Hamilton said.
Searsport also experienced heavy flooding on Cottage Road, which runs along the waterfront by the town’s public pier, Hamilton said. He estimates the damages to the roadway, wharf and sea walls, could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.
Camden’s town government sees the repairs at their town wharf as a step in the right direction for preparing to weather more intense and frequent storms caused by climate change in the future, the town manager said.
“We still have more work to do to make it more resilient to sea level rise,” Caler said. “But I think, in the next few years, it’ll withstand some of these storm events that are more like that Christmas Eve storm.”