Long-Standing Culvert Flooding Issue to Be a Thing of the Past

For decades, the flooding from the culvert that handles the old Island End River from the Parkway through the Produce Terminal has elicited hundreds of Council conversations, resulted in near litigation many times and caused horrendous floods in the area that are very costly for the City to repair.

It seemed for most of the past 20 years that the issue would never be solved.

Now, it appears the problem is over.

With the purchase of the Boston Market Terminal by The Davis Companies of Boston late last month has come an extraordinary partnership between Davis, the City of Everett and the City of Chelsea to finally fix the culvert issue.

“They are already working with us and our state and federal partners to repair the Market Street culvert and daylight as much of the Island End stream as possible,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria this week. “For the past 100 years Island End stream has been channelized and buried underground in a collapsing culvert. By replacing a portion of the existing culvert with a larger box culvert and daylighting the rest of the stream we will restore the waterway and ensure that the commercial area continues to thrive. This will also address flash flooding concerns, reduce polluted runoff, and improving the livability of this area of the city that has long been forgotten.”

Jonathan Davis, president of The Davis Companies, said the former owners have been very helpful in letting The Davis Companies begin discussions with both cities about solving the flooding while in the process of purchasing it.

“We are especially thankful to City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria for coming together and teaming up to find a public-private solution here,” he said. “We’re going to invest significant money in improving the situation on our property and they will work to advance the design for a corridor-wide solution that will address not only the drainage system, but also the resiliency. It’s a great example of two municipalities and a private party coming together and working collaboratively to address a problem that has been outstanding for decades.”

Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it would be a benefit to Chelsea even though most of the property is in Everett. He said Chelsea diverted their drainage from the culvert in a very expensive project three years ago, but the overall flooding issues still affect Chelsea and the culvert does continue to run under Market and Beacham Streets.

“The economic benefit of the transfer relate to Everett only, but the benefit to Chelsea is the transfer is going to allow for the fix of the drainage in the area of the Boston Market Terminal and the agreement we have is there will be a $4 million set aside on a greater fix of the flooding in the area,” he said. “The sale will benefit Chelsea in that respect.”

Everett City Engineer Greg St. Louis said the culvert has been a thorn in the side of both cities for many years. It’s a problem that has had no clear solution because the former owners of the Terminal didn’t believe they were responsible for repairing the collapsed portions, and so a back-and-forth dominated the situation with no solution. In that time, flooding was made worse in areas like the Parkway and on Spring Street – as well as on Vale Street and others in Chelsea.

“This is a great example of using a public-private partnership to solve a critical infrastructure failing that is essentially a century’s old problem,” he said.

Previously, the area was simply tidal mudflats, and the mouth of the Island End River meandered through the land to the Mystic River. However, as property in central Boston began to become more valuable in the 1960s, the produce and food supply businesses were relocated with an act of the State Legislature to the New England Produce Center area on filled land at the Everett/Chelsea line. Within that process, the Island End was straightened out, and then later buried. However the culvert they used was made of corrugated metal, and the water is brackish saltwater.

Those two things don’t mix.

So, over the years the metal corroded and the culvert collapsed in various places, including under the Terminal. Already, Everett has spent money to “daylight” the stream up to the Terminal property, and plan to do more with state grants as well. Now, he said, the plan is that Davis will daylight the stream on about half of their property, and fix the culvert on the other half. Davis will also install a large box culvert under their driveway, and Everett and Chelsea will combine to install a large box culvert under Market Street.

The culvert and its drainage networks handle the outflow from nearly one-third of Everett – stretching all the way up to Everett Square in some cases.

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