Climate Adaptation Program Director, Maine
Jeremy Bell is Maine TNC’s Climate Adaptation Program Director, working across the state and beyond to protect people and nature from the effects of climate change.
Jeremy works on issues primarily related to water – whether supporting on the ground project, improving policy, or finding innovative funding streams to meet the scale of the problem. For example, promoting right-sized road stream crossings that can survive increasingly intense rain events in rural communities, or providing coastal communities with the tools to build ‘living shorelines’, a more natural way of slowing the damage of erosion to marshes and bluffs.
Jeremy previously oversaw the implementation of TNC's Nearshore Habitat Restoration and Diadromous Fish Connectivity Strategies in Maine.
“Climate change is the conservation issue of our time, and possibly the biggest challenge we face as an organization. It affects our forests, rivers, and the ocean in so many ways. The time is now to meet these challenges head on, and that’s why I am inspired to help make both human communities and natural habitats more resilient while we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stabilize the climate.”
Prior to coming to TNC, he was the Wetlands Program Manager for the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration and a project manager there for nearly ten years. Before that, Jeremy lived and worked in Seattle, Washington managing stream, wetland, and Pacific salmon enhancement projects.
Jeremy has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus in science writing from Michigan State University, and a Master of Environmental Studies with an emphasis on wetlands ecology and management from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
From Midland to Maine: Floods Remind Us that We Must Adapt
Earlier this spring, two dams failed in Michigan due to an extreme weather event, causing tremendous flooding in the town of Midland. Fortunately, fatalities were avoided as the area had been evacuated.
Both dams were classified as high hazard (meaning failure could result in loss of life), and ironically were about to be purchased by a county authority and renovated at a cost of over $100 million dollars to local taxpayers.
This part of Michigan has seen an increase in rainfall from about 28 inches per year in 1900 to about 35 inches today, with increasingly severe storms. This is consistent with Maine’s increase in rainfall, although we receive more precipitation in an average year.
Nationwide, there are over 1,000 high hazard dams, and many are in poor condition. That means stories like this are going to become increasingly common, as climate change continues to add stress to aging infrastructure.
Currently, under Maine law, many of our state's private dam owners would not be responsible for the damage caused by the failure of their structures. One good solution would be to improve state dam safety laws, putting more responsibility on dam owners for inspection and safety measures for their dams. This has been a goal for TNC in Maine for many years and would significantly improve oversight of these potentially hazardous structures.
The Midland floods reminds us that climate change will not wait for us to shore up our infrastructure. We must act now, boldly, to protect our communities and build a safer, more resilient and sustainable future.
Johnson, E.S., J.M. Bell, D. Coker, E. Hertz, N. LaBarge, G. Blake, 2018. “A Lifeline and Social Vulnerability Analysis of Sea Level Rise Impacts on Rural Coastal Communities.” Shore & Beach 86(4): 36-44.