Highlights from 30+ Years of Maine Sea Grant Research & Outreach in Coastal Processes

In 1972, Paul Ring, a marine specialist with NOAA and Cooperative Extension, began a project to help Pemaquid Beach area volunteers restore sand dunes.

In 1975, the nation’s heightened awareness of the environmental consequences of unregulated land use combined with development pressure along Maine’s coast, prompted oceanographer Kenneth Fink to initiate an assessment program for southern Maine beaches, funded by Sea Grant.

Sea Grant research on beach processes and sea-level rise informed passage of the state’s original Sand Dune Law in 1979, and later amendments in 1983 and 1988, creating the strongest beach protection regulations in the country that became a model for at least six other states.

Permitting for the expansion of Bath Iron Works, one of Maine’s largest employers, was facilitated by Sea Grant-funded observations that sand dredged in the Kennebec Estuary would be flushed to the river mouth beaches.

Sea Grant measurements on the volume of sand in Wells Bay informed a plan to dredge Wells Harbor and replenish the beach, a resolution of a 25-year controversy surrounding the dredging of Wells Harbor.

Based on recommendations of the Southern Maine Beach Stakeholder Group, in 1999 Sea Grant funded Joe Kelley and Dan Belknap to develop and deploy methods for evaluating profiles of sandy beaches. The Southern Maine Beach Profiling Program has expanded to 15 beaches and some 200 volunteers, and is now financially supported by participating towns and property owners. Profiling data has informed dune restoration plans in South Portland, seawall replacement and beach nourishment decisions in Scarborough and Wells, erosion assessments in Saco, and piping plover management in Ogunquit.