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The Resilient Mystic Collaborative has secured federal, state and philanthropic grants exceeding $1.1 million to help Mystic watershed communities collectively prepare for extreme weather.

“Our local communities recognized that planning for climate change needs to happen now, and that we are stronger together,” said Patrick Herron, executive director of the Arlington-based Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) in a June 25 news release. “We are grateful to the Barr Foundation, the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the US EPA for investing in our collective efforts to prepare our people and places for more flooding, heat and storms.”

Convened by MyRWA, the collaborative focuses on:

  • Managing stormwater flooding and water quality on a watershed level;
  • Storm-hardening critical energy, transportation, food and wastewater infrastructure in the Lower Mystic, includingLogan Airport; MBTA Blue, Orange and Commuter Rail lines; Deer Island wastewater facility; the Amelia Earhart Dam and the New England Produce Center; and
  • Increasing the resilience of vulnerable residents during and after extreme weather events.

Arlington among communities

The collaborative includes 14 of 21 communities -- Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lexington, Malden, Medford, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester, Winthrop and Woburn -- and more than 75 percent of the population and land base in the Mystic River Watershed. It includes nonprofit and private-sector partners as content experts, with municipal planners and engineers serving as the group’s voting members. All Mystic Watershed municipalities are welcome to participate.

On June 18, the Barr Foundation awarded MyRWA $700,000 over two years to provide professional staffing for the collaborative, including a dedicated project manager focused on increasing the resiliency of Mystic Watershed residents. The new staff person will join cofacilitators Julie Wormser from MyRWA and Carri Hulet from CBI.

“We are pleased to be able to offer support to the Resilient Mystic Collaborative,” said Kalila Barnett, climate resilience program officer for the Barr Foundation. “Taking a watershed approach to addressing climate vulnerabilities presents an important opportunity to deepen the municipal partnerships that will be vital in the years ahead. Making our region more resilient requires a focus on people as well as infrastructure. collaborative is putting together all of the right people and creating a model for the rest of the state.”

Somerville, Cjhelsea efforts

Somerville Climate Forward, our community’s climate action plan, makes clear that Somerville can’t go it alone when it comes to preparing for the effects of a changing climate,” said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone in the release.  “That’s why we are so committed to working with neighboring municipalities and partners in the Resilient Mystic Collaborative.  Building resilience is not just about infrastructure—it’s also about strengthening our communities’ ability to take care of the most vulnerable among us.”

"GreenRoots is very excited to be involved in the Resilient Mystic Collaborative,” said Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni. “It is so important that community has representation in these types of spaces in order to balance out the interests and priorities of watershed-level projects between the decision-makers and the people directly affected by those decisions."

On June 20, Gov. Baker announced that the City of Cambridge, on behalf of the collaborative’s Upper Mystic Stormwater working group, was awarded a $350,000 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant to prioritize opportunities for regional stormwater retention, leading with green infrastructure solutions. An associated $75,000 grant from the U.S. EPA will help communities incorporate the results of this work into their local Hazard Mitigation Plans. 

"Cambridge is pleased to have received this regional MVP grant on behalf of multiple Mystic Watershed communities," said Katherine Watkins, Assistant Commissioner for Engineering. "The collaborative’s commitment to working across municipal boundaries and focusing on regional solutions is so inspiring and we are grateful that the modelling work we have done on flooding in the Mystic River can be utilized for the entire watershed and not just in Cambridge."

“When communities don’t work together,” added Wormser, “One town’s solution can make their downstream neighbors flood problems worse. When we are successful, upstream communities will get more parks and stormwater wetlands and downstream communities will flood less.” 

Additional quotes from Resilient Mystic Collaborative communities:

“As a City that is committed to growing and succeeding together with our neighboring communities, Everett is very excited to be a part of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative,” said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “We are ready to face the challenges of urban heat islands, flooding, stormwater management, and more head on. We feel strongly that working and learning from our neighboring communities will only continue to benefit our residents and the natural environment that surrounds us.”

“On behalf of Chelsea, we’re thrilled to be a partner in the Resilient Mystic Collaborative,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “This critical investment will build social resiliency and help prepare the region for the reality of climate change.”

“Having just participated in our own Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness plan at the beginning of June, the Town of Wakefield recognizes the importance that partnerships with surrounding communities and organizations have in mitigating the effects of climate change, said Town Administrator Stephen Maio. “We look forward to working across municipal borders to develop regional climate change actions that will benefit the entire region.”

"Malden is in the process of preparing our own Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness plan,” said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson.  “Being part of a regional collaborative with our neighbors will be invaluable to us as we learn to prepare for a changing climate."

“Arlington has spent the last year designing and constructing additional flood storage capacity through an MVP Action Grant,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. “The State's commitment to the MVP program, through funding both local and regional efforts, is encouraging. This regional stormwater grant builds on Arlington's own MVP grant, with the goals of controlling flooding and improving water quality across the watershed.”

“I am excited that Medford is participating in such a groundbreaking partnership to make our watershed and our city more climate resilient,” said Mayor Stephanie Burke. :I appreciate the support that the Barr Foundation, the Commonwealth and the EPA is providing to make this important work possible.”

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 urban 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. Its 21 municipalities are home to a half-million residents, including many who are disproportionately vulnerable to extreme weather such as environmental justice communities and communities of color, low-income residents and employees, people living with health challenges, and English-language learners..

This news announcement was published Tuesday, June 25, 2019.