Resilient Mystic Collaborative Receives $2.25 Million From Barr Foundation

The Mystic River Watershed Association is celebrating a $2.25 million, three-year grant from the Barr Foundation for continued support of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC) and regional climate work.  Convened by MyRWA and 10 watershed communities in September 2018 and now led by senior staff from 20 cities and towns and non-governmental partners, the RMC focuses on managing flooding and extreme heat on a regional scale and increasing the resilience of our most vulnerable residents and workers to extreme weather.

Collectively, RMC communities have secured nearly $57 million for climate resilient projects in the Mystic Watershed, with the goal of securing an additional $100 million in public funding over the next three years. 

“The Mystic River watershed needs to take collective and significant action to prepare for a stormier, hotter, and less predictable climate future.” says Patrick Herron, Executive Director of the Mystic River Watershed Association. “This funding enables our communities to achieve outsized public benefits and make progress on our goals of climate equity in  the watershed.”

“We are pleased to be able to make this investment in the work of the RMC,” said Barr Foundation Senior Program Officer Kalila Barnett. “Their focus on closing climate equity gaps across especially race and income, and commitment to centering the needs and aspirations of people most affected by their efforts really align with our values.”

“Because of COVID, many more people now understand what GreenRoots has been fighting for since its founding, to ensure that people in historically disinvested communities have the same ability to deal with challenges like climate change as people in wealthy communities,” said John Walkey, Director of Waterfront and Climate Justice Initiatives at GreenRoots. “As a co-founder of the RMC, I’m glad to see us work to effectively focus scarce public resources on the people who need them most.”

“We’re proud to be a founding community of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative,” said Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin. “Being part of this group has enabled us to secure resources and funding for important community climate change projects, including design work for the 11.3 acre climate resilient Hurld Park, the Shaker Glen wetland stream/trail restoration project and the Horn Pond fish ladder.  Over the years, this partnership has been invaluable.”

“Communities along the Mystic River are already feeling the impact of climate change and it is imperative that we meet these challenges with swift, decisive action. The new Barr grant for the RMC will help us do exactly that,” said Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “Together we can reduce risks, adapt to changing climate patterns, and foster more resilient and equitable communities. I want to thank our colleagues in the Resilient Mystic Collaborative for their hard work and unwavering dedication to fighting climate change.”

“Several of Arlington’s landmark climate projects in recent years relied on data and partnerships—as well as funding—secured by the Resilient Mystic Collaborative,” said Town Manager Sandy Pooler. “This award from the Barr Foundation strengthens our ability to accomplish our climate planning goals collaboratively, such as preventing flooding and reducing extreme heat.”

 “We’ve been working to strengthen our climate resiliency and extend needed resources to our more impact communities,” Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said. “The Resilient Mystic Collaborative is critical to our climate action work and will directly lead to increased protections for our residents.”

“The Town of Reading is committed to addressing climate change by implementing robust solutions that center the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Town Manager Fidel Maltez. “This work takes a collaborative approach and resources beyond what our Town can provide on its own. The RMC provides our Town with technical support and proven community engagement processes that will affect lasting impact for our residents.”

“The RMC is creating regional collaboration across municipalities to develop long-term resiliency solutions to climate change which knows no boundaries,” said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “Individual communities cannot do this critical work on their own. By sharing information and resources, our environmental work benefits exponentially.”

“The intensifying impacts of climate change are unevenly burdening communities of color, new immigrants, and vulnerable populations in Chelsea,” stated Alex Train, AICP, Director of Housing & Community Development. “The RMC has enabled us to work with long-standing community partners, like GreenRoots, by adding capacity for regional solutions to coastal flooding, urban heat, and air quality that will stem displacement, combat public health disparities, and allow residents to prosper in place.” 

“The RMC is leading regional collaboration to address the impacts of climate change across municipal boundaries and Cambridge is proud to be a part of this amazing organization,” said Katherine Watkins, Cambridge Commissioner of Public Works.  “A perfect example of this is the Amelia Earhart Dam, which provides critical protection from coastal flooding to numerous communities, but is owned and operated by the state.  Through the RMC, the conversation about the dam has shifted from individual communities identifying the dam as being vulnerable to a coordinated effort with DCR to elevate the dam and other coastal flood pathways.”  

“We designed our facilities in Assembly Row and Charlestown with climate change in mind,” said David Burson, Senior Project Manager for Mass General Brigham.  “We knew this wouldn’t be enough, however, and understood the need for a regional strategy and coalition to address the larger climate vulnerabilities that we and the communities we serve will be facing.  The Resilient Mystic Collaborative has provided an effective forum for this regional conversation, and has been an incredibly effective catalyst for the funding and implementation of this essential work.”   

“I have been part of quite a few partnerships,” said Lexington Town Engineer John Livsey.  “The RMC really delivers.  I am really proud to have been one of its founders and still involved five years later.”

“Winchester has been working to address increasing heat, flooding and water quality issues,” said Sustainability Director Ken Pruitt. “Through our participation with the RMC, we have access to resources and experts that are helping our community become more resilient to climate change. The RMC is a valuable partner, and we are grateful for its support and collaboration.”

“When we worked with Cambridge on flood mitigation planning for the Alewife neighborhood, it quickly became apparent that the city could not protect itself on its own,” said Barbara Landau, partner at Noble, Wickersham and Heart.  “We understood that solutions had to be regional.  That is when the RMC stepped in and provided its terrific and effective framework for collaboration and the ability to secure funding for critical projects that benefit the region.”

“People say that cities and towns in Massachusetts don’t like to work together, but the RMC is a great counterexample,” said Carri Hulet, Principal at CH Consulting.  “For five years I’ve seen folks work across borders with tremendous good will and it’s paying off. The people who live and work in this region will benefit for decades because their leaders today are doing the hard work of regional collaboration.”

“Our success has been a blend of hard work, high trust, and very, very lucky timing,” said Julie Wormser, MyRWA Senior Policy Advisor. “Right now, the federal government is making a generational investment in equitable, climate-resilient, nature-based projects that make our communities safer, more just, and more beautiful.  Barr’s generous investment means that the RMC is ready and able to leverage this funding to bring more priority projects to fruition.”

Mystic River Watershed at a Glance.

The 76-square-mile Mystic River Watershed stretches from Reading through the northern shoreline of Boston Harbor to Revere.  An Anglicized version of the Pequot word missi-tuk (“large river with wind- and tide-driven waves”), it is now one of New England’s most densely populated, urbanized watersheds.

The seven-mile Mystic River and its tributaries represented an early economic engine for colonial Boston.  Ten shipyards built more than 500 clipper ships in the 1800s before roads and railways replaced schooners and steamships.  Tide-driven mills, brickyards and tanneries along both banks of the river brought both wealth and pollution.

In the 1960s, the Amelia Earhart Dam transformed much of the river into a freshwater impoundment, while construction of Interstate 93 filled in wetlands and dramatically changed the river’s course. Since then, many former industrial sites have been cleaned up and redeveloped into new commercial areas and residential communities. 

The Mystic is facing growing climate-related challenges: coastal and stormwater flooding, extreme storms, heat, drought and unpredictable seasonal weather.  The watershed is relatively low-lying and extensively developed, making it prone to both freshwater and coastal flooding.  Its 21 municipalities are home to 600,000 residents, including many who are disproportionately vulnerable to extreme weather: environmental justice communities, new Americans, residents of color, elders, low-income residents and employees, people living with disabilities and English-language learners.

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