DiDomenico, McGonagle, and Ryan Celebrate Major Progress on Coastal Climate Resilience

Special to the Independent

On October 12, Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne hosted Senator DiDomenico, Representatives McGonagle and Ryan, along with dozens of elected officials and agency staff to celebrate collective efforts to protect coastal cities along Greater Boston’s Mystic River from sea level rise and extreme coastal storms. Senator DiDomenico worked with Representatives McGonagle and Ryan, along with other state legislators from the Mystic Watershed communities to secure millions of dollars in bonding authority to support the development of these critical coastal resilience projects.

The press conference featured spokespeople from every level of government who were critical to the success of this regional effort:

• Congresswomen Clark and Pressley’s offices,

• Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Department of Conservation and Recreation,

• Senator DiDomenico along with other state legislators from Mystic Watershed communities,

• Mayors, city managers and senior staff from Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Somerville, Cambridge, Medford, and Malden, and

• Non-profit leaders from the Mystic River Watershed Association and GreenRoots.

“Climate change is creating severe and frequent natural disasters across our nation, and I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to secure funding to ensure that communities across our region are preparing for the effects of what that will look like for our area,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “This investment is critical for the well-being of our coastal communities, and it benefits the environment, workforce, our businesses, and residents. The importance of these resilience projects led by the Mystic River Watershed Association and the Resilient Mystic Collaborative is without question and I am heartened to see so many community partners and elected officials coming together to put a plan in place to address these impacts on our cities and towns.”

“I want to thank The Mystic River Watershed Association for bringing us all together to acknowledge the work being done on the Mystic and Island End Rivers, Amelia Earhart Dam, Chelsea Creek, and into Boston Harbor,” said Representative Dan Ryan. Collectively, we have put a stake in the ground on where our climate resiliency efforts in the Mystic River region should head. As we take a few minutes to celebrate the major first steps we have taken on this journey, we also reflect on the awesome amount of work that lies ahead. With our community stakeholders leading the charge, I am confident the Mystic River state delegation and our federal partners in Congress, are quite adept at seeing this necessary vision become a reality!” 

“Among the many victories these projects have achieved, I believe collaboration is chief among them,” said Representative Joseph McGonagle. “For all these offices, community groups and other entities to rally around this cause is truly incredible. I am grateful to my legislative colleagues but especially to Julie Wormser and Patrick Herren of MRWA and Rep. Dan Ryan and Senator DiDomenico who have worked tirelessly to garner funds for these projects. As we see the effects of global warming and extreme weather in other parts of the country, it is absolutely essential that we do what we can to prevent such tragedies and protect our communities. We still have a lot of work to be done but I look forward to moving towards that end goal with this group.”

To date, their collective efforts have raised over $23 million in grants and bonding authority to support three critical coastal resilience projects underway in Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea. The map below shows the extent of saltwater flooding from a projected 2070 “hundred-year” flood, five feet higher than the record flooding in January and March 2018. The teal area is the area that will be protected through a multiyear regional flood resilience effort led by cities and towns in the Resilient Mystic Collaborative.

The press conference celebrates major progress made on the first three major flood pathways.

They are:

The Amelia Earhart Dam, which lies between Everett and Somerville and separates the salt water and fresh water portions of the Mystic River. Built in 1966 by the Metropolitan District Commission and now owned and managed by Mass DCR, the dam currently provides significant protection from coastal flooding to seven upstream communities. In the coming 10 to 20 years, the dam is expected to flank and overtop in major coastal storms. Storm hardening and elevating the dam to manage flooding to a projected 2070 1% storm is expected to cost approximately $36 million and will substantially reduce the risk of coastal flooding to over 108,000 residents and $60 billion in real estate value.

• Congresswoman Clark secured a $750,000 Community Project grant to further regional coastal flood resilience planning and design, including for the dam.

• State Senators DiDomenico and Jehlen and State Representatives Ryan, McGonagle, and Barber led the Mystic state legislative delegation in securing “no less than” $8.5 million in state bonding authorization to provide required match for a future federal grant proposal.

Draw 7 Park is a Mass DCR nine-acre waterfront park located between the Amelia Earhart Dam and the Assembly Square Orange Line MBTA Station. It is one of 10 critical coastal flood pathways needing capital investment to prevent significant damage across ten communities. Beyond preventing coastal storm surges from flanking the Amelia Earhart Dam, this $13 million project will link public transit to miles of bicycle/pedestrian paths along and across the Mystic River, restore a living shoreline, and provide other recreational amenities for residents and visitors to Assembly Square.

• State Senators DiDomenico and Jehlen and State Representatives Ryan, McGonagle, and Barber led the Mystic state legislative delegation in securing “no less than” $4 million in state bonding authorization to add to $1 million in secured funds.

• In addition, the Baker Administration is seeking $30 million to connect a pedestrian bridge across the Mystic River between the Orange Line and Everett’s Encore Casino.

The Island End River is home to the New England Produce Center, responsible for the distribution of virtually all of the fresh fruits and vegetables imported into New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Forming the boundary between Everett and Chelsea, this industrial district generates an estimated $7 billion annually in economic activity, and already floods during coastal storms and king tides. Over 15,000 low-income BIPOC residents live within this area; this $70 million project will help protect their homes from coastal storms and sea level rise.

• Congresswoman Pressley secured a $750,000 Community Project grant to further the Island End River project.

• The state MVP program has invested $4.2 million across three grants in this project.

• State Senators DiDomenico and Jehlen and State Representatives Ryan, McGonagle, and Barber led the Mystic state legislative delegation in securing “no less than” $5 million in state bonding authorization to provide required match for a $50 million federal grant proposal that Chelsea and Everett are applying for.

These projects are the result of years of analysis and design by both individual communities and multiple municipalities working collectively. Each of the municipalities that championed these climate resilient projects is a founding member of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC), a watershed-wide voluntary partnership focused on regional climate resilience.

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