The Town of Arlington, in partnership with the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), earlier this spring was awarded $959,757 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to construct green infrastructure projects across the Mystic River Watershed.

This critical federal earmark will be used to design and build small-scale, cost-effective installations that manage stormwater runoff throughout the watershed, which is the most urbanized in New England, a recent town news release said.

Specifically, the project aims to minimize pollutants reaching the Mystic River while also reducing regional flooding. The project is expected to begin in September 2024 and to be completed by September 2025.

Techniques pioneered 'right here'

“The Town of Arlington, in partnership with the Mystic River Watershed Association, is excited to receive this funding and grateful to [local U.S.] Congresswoman Katherine Clark for her continued work on environmental issues,” said Arlington Town Manager Jim Feeney. Since autumn 2022, Clark has been Democratic Whip – the second most senior position in the House Democratic Caucus and one of only two women to date to serve in this capacity.

“A healthy Mystic River is crucial to a healthy Arlington,” Clark was quoted as saying in a news release. “This federal funding will help keep our watershed clean and advance one of the most urgent tasks before us: building climate readiness and resilience. I want to thank the Town of Arlington and Mystic River Watershed Association for helping me identify this critical priority. This is how our government should operate: partnering together to deliver for families back home.”

“These funds will enable innovative green infrastructure techniques pioneered right here in town to be installed around the Mystic River watershed. We recognize [that] stormwater management is critically important in cities and towns, and this award will go a long way to helping us make our communities more climate-resilient,” Feeny said.

Town engineer credited

The project will utilize award-winning stormwater management techniques developed by Arlington Town Engineer Wayne Chouinard. These techniques include two devices that direct water into the ground rather than into pipes. The highly efficient street trench design that was pioneered in Arlington is already used successfully in the town and across the watershed. The second design incorporates a street tree that helps to soak up stormwater. These trenches offer the dual benefit of managing stormwater and promoting urban greening and cooling. Traditional rain gardens will also be implemented, and the project will explore and utilize the most cost-effective solutions for each specific location. 

In September 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recognized Chouinard as a 2020 Merit Award Winner from Massachusetts for his work to protect New England's environment. 

"The additional funding provided by this grant will allow the Town of Arlington to continue the installation of proven green infrastructure," Chouinard said recently. "We are particularly eager to utilize specially designed tree well and soil that will increase the infiltration of stormwater runoff and assist in a tree's root growth underground, resulting in greater longevity of the tree and helping to reduce the negative impacts of tree roots on sidewalks."

The Town of Arlington plans to partner with the MyRWA to manage construction based on a fixed budget and timeline. MyRWA will then work with individual municipalities within the watershed to procure construction services. This regional approach ensures a coordinated effort to address a shared challenge, officials said. 

Stormwater runoff from paved surfaces is a major source of pollution in urban areas. This project addresses this critical challenge by redirecting and filtering stormwater runoff, mimicking natural water flow patterns that existed before development.

Federal funding called crucial

“Federal investment in green infrastructure for the Mystic River watershed is essential,” said Patrick Herron, executive director of the Mystic River Watershed Association, in the news release. “This project will not only improve water quality, but [it will] also demonstrate the power of collaboration to share innovative solutions across municipal boundaries.”

The Mystic River suffers from high levels of nutrient pollution, primarily from stormwater runoff. A 2020 EPA report identified the need for a 60 percent reduction in phosphorus pollution -- and highlighted green infrastructure as the primary means to achieve this goal in the urban Mystic River Watershed. Local budgets typically lack the resources needed to address this challenge at the scale required, officials noted; this federal investment will not only improve water quality and reduce flooding, but [it will] also serve as a model for other urban watersheds facing similar challenges.


Original story HERE