BELFAST — Property owners along Belfast’s shoreline learned a little sobering news, as well as some positive lessons for the future, as the region continues to tackle global climate change.

The meeting was hosted by the Belfast Climate Crisis Committee as a way to begin discussing issues to shoreline properties and how to deal equitably with those issues.

Marine geologist Peter Slovinsky of the Maine Geological Survey pointed out that 48% of Maine’s coast is erodible coastal bluffs. Using weather patterns in Bar Harbor as an example, Slovinsky provided a number of charts to show the amount of sea level rise over the last several decades.

Slovinsky said since about 1990, Bar Harbor has been experiencing a sea level rise of about three millimeters per year. He said half of the sea level rise we have experienced has occurred since 1990.

Slovinsky said in Belfast a little less than a mile of road will be impacted by sea level rise based on forecasts to 2100. Where he said the community would experience the largest impacts is in storm events, specifically in terms of storm surge. Specifically, he noted that storm surge can cause a rapid deterioration of coastal bluffs, which puts those property owners in coastal areas at great risk.

Later in the meeting William Gartley, with the engineering firm of Gartley & Dorsky, said in the last five years his firm has gotten more calls for erosion control assistance than in the last 15 combined. He said more severe storms are coming out of the southeast and it is causing shorelines to erode.

Gartley then provided those in attendance with examples of work his firm has done to help secure and armor shorelines against storms and rising sea levels. Gartley said his firm begins by doing a preliminary assessment of a landowner’s property to ascertain whether they can do anything to help them. He said there are instances where erosion is so bad that he has actually asked people to move out of their homes.

Gartley said once his firm decides to do a project, they do a field survey to determine the exact scope of work. Gartley is no stranger to the Belfast area, having done a number of projects here. One of the projects he discussed with the audience was the shoreline stabilization project at Belfast City Park in 2018-2019, which at the time was experiencing significant erosion.

According to Climate Crisis Committee member Fred Bowers, those residents in attendance represented 120 parcels which were identified using a 14-feet-above-sea-level criterion based upon current sea-level rise mapping.

Committee chair Jonathan Beal said part of the reason for the meeting was that the committee is at the beginning of formulating a climate action plan for the city and wanted to invite those possibly affected to be part of the conversation in helping to draft the plan.

Well over 50 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Belfast Boathouse.