Harvard Students Present Island End River Resilience Project Report to Mayor DeMaria

Special To The Independent

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria listened as graduate students from Harvard University delivered a final draft presentation on the Island End River Coastal Flood Resilience Project and its impact on Everett, Chelsea and other area communities.

Harvard students Othmane Ouhaddach, Kotomi Odate, and Rebecca Lin of the Harvard Kennedy School and Rob Benner of the Harvard Graduate School of Design made their comprehensive presentation during a special conference with Mayor DeMaria May 1 in the City Council Chambers. Also representing the City at the meeting were Planning and Development Department Director Matt Lattanzi and Project Coordinator for the Engineering Department Patrick Johnston.

The Harvard students addressed some critical issues in their report such as the severe economic impact that a major flooding event would have on the New England Produce Center, a major supplier of food for the New England region. The report also examined the repercussions of a flood on transportation infrastructure in Everett.

Having grown up in Everett, DeMaria’s in-depth knowledge of the Produce Center’s full-scale operations was evident in his exchanges with the graduate students. It was noteworthy that both DeMaria and Lattanzi referred to the food distribution and retail center by its familiar, long-established local identity as simply “The Produce Center,” as opposed to its official name of New England Produce Center or “NEPC.”

DeMaria, Lattanzi, and Johnston also asked pertinent questions to the students throughout their one-hour presentation and were fully engaged in the discussion about the ramifications of a major flooding event. The mayor also efficiently responded to inquiries made by the Harvard contingent.

To be sure, the conference with the mayor was serious in nature. The implication from the Harvard students was that a major flooding event “will” occur at some point in the future and dramatically affect the lives of the more than 100,000 residents in Everett and Chelsea –  not that a flood event “might” occur.

Mayor DeMaria commended the students for their outstanding presentation and for attaining the goals of their report which were: to raise awareness about the impact of storm surges, engage and educate stakeholders (regulators and residents), and bolster an investment case for future funding through improved understanding of socioeconomic impacts.

The report was of the A-plus standard (Harvard faculty attended the meeting). The final draft included numerous charts, photos, and graphs, along with information on geographic impact and environmental issues – a report that was certainly emblematic of the world’s most prestigious university.

Mayor DeMaria and his team have received praise for their pro-active approach on the issue of coastal flood resilience. The DeMaria Administration advocated strongly for federal funding for a flood resilience project and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley delivered in a big way, securing $750,000 to help address the growing flood risk.

“I appreciate Congresswoman Pressley prioritizing the funding needs for this project given all the compelling requests her office receives for earmarks,” said Mayor DeMaria in a press release from Cong. Pressley’s office. “I also would like to thank our partners in Chelsea for their collaboration with the shared understanding of the importance of building resiliency against increasing threats of coastal flooding and the risks that our communities would face to public infrastructure and critical economic areas without this important work being done.”

(Information from the final draft presentation and appendix was used in the compilation of this story).

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