Leaders in Arlington and the surrounding communities are taking steps to prevent one major threat posed by a changing environment: flooding. 

Last week Congresswoman Katherine Clark joined local officials to highlight new federal funding she helped secure for flood prevention. Clark represents the Fifth District of Massachusetts and serves as Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Clark said that $750,000 was allotted from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget for the Mystic & Charles Regional Coastal Flood Interventions Project. This project will analyze, plan, and sequence a broad set of “coastal resilience strategies” that will prevent flooding in communities like Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, and Revere.  

“This really is a return to Congress using that local input, asking communities what their priorities are and getting them help through federal funding to do the work that they need to do,” Clark said.  

Due to rising sea levels, the dams that currently protect the community from coastal flooding will only be able to provide sufficient protection for an about 10 or 20 more years, according to a press release from Clark’s office. Failing infrastructure like this is particularly worrisome, Clark said. This funding represents a larger effort from her Democratic colleagues to address infrastructure issues across the nation, she added.  

“It's very alarming. These dams are critical to making sure that we keep the neighborhoods and businesses near the waterways operational, and to prevent flooding,” Clark said. “Ten or 20 years is not very long. Now we can start the planning to prevent disaster.” 

Local leaders gather in Arlington to mark the procurement of federal funding to help with flood prevention in the area.

A vulnerable area

The Mystic River has a major risk of flooding over the next 30 years, according to FloodFactor, an online tool created by the nonprofit First Street Foundation. FloodFactor uses a particular location’s history and geographic information, like elevation, climate, and proximity to water to calculate flood risks. Of all the properties near the Mystic River, 17% of properties have a notable chance of being severely impacted by flooding during the next three decades.  

Precipitation patterns have changed, according to the Mystic River Watershed Association. Historically, small amounts of rain and snow came about every three days. Now, more of the region’s precipitation is occurring as Nor’easters and thunderstorms, with dry periods in between. This pattern has started to “overwhelm aging stormwater infrastructure and stress native ecosystems,” according to the Association's website.  

“This is a very vulnerable area. Experts see potential for really catastrophic flooding here,” Clark said.  

“Communities like Medford that are situated on and have historically relied on the Mystic River are at far greater risk of impacts from flooding, particularly if we do not adequately plan for and actively work to address the impacts of climate change. Without the interventions proposed through this project, 25% of our community will be impacted by flooding beginning as soon as within the next 10 to 20 years,” said Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn. 

Regional work

Projects like this one have drawn Clark’s interest because of their regional approach, she said. Due to the nature of these waterways, the communities that surround them are intensely interconnected, she added.  

The 10 community projects that Clark has secured funding for generally focus on climate change and how ready communities are to adapt to this change. They also place an emphasis on green infrastructure, she said. Besides flood prevention, Clark said other projects include building a new park and wetlands in Woburn, keeping phosphorous out of the Charles River in Waltham, investing in higher education for underserved youth, and expand accessibility to community healthcare centers. 

“Congresswoman Clark is an amazing representative for our district. She has put together a list of projects that is just remarkable — the homework that’s been done and the tenacity with which she must have fought to get these projects, my hats off to you for your tenacity and your hard work,” said Fred Lasky, executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Original story HERE