On the heels of record-setting flood events in January and March 2018, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) announced today that it is updating its core mission and resources to help municipalities manage the extreme weather associated with climate change.
“Slowing down climate change is all about managing energy,” said Patrick Herron, MyRWA’s executive director. “Adapting to climate change is all about managing water—both flooding and drought. Water is something that we have thought about for over four decades.”
The Mystic River watershed spans 21 cities and towns from Woburn through Revere. This spring, MyRWA staff met with nearly fifty state and local stakeholders to best understand how a regional watershed association could help municipalities become more resilient to flooding, drought and heat.
“We heard over and over from cities and towns that they can’t manage flooding from just within their municipal boundaries,” explained Herron. “Stormwater flooding in Medford for example, has its origins in upstream communities. Coastal storms below the Amelia Earhart Dam threaten both New England’s largest produce distribution center and Logan Airport’s jet fuel supply.”
“We’re concerned about the neighborhoods and residents living in the shadows of massive petroleum storage tanks and other industries which are projected to be severely impacted by climate change. When the flood waters and chemicals reach homes, how will our communities be protected?” asked Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots in Chelsea. “We’ve seen neighborhoods in Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Houston be decimated. Chelsea and East Boston could be next.”
Based on this feedback, MyRWA requested and received a $115,000 grant from the Barr Foundation that will allow the non-profit to work with municipalities, businesses and community organizations on an action-oriented, regional, climate resilience strategy for the Mystic River Watershed. This grant will allow MyRWA to hire Julie Wormser to lead this new program.
“The Barr Foundation’s climate resilience grantmaking has historically focused on Boston. Yet, we know climate change is no respecter of city boundaries. If some act in isolation, neighboring communities could actually become more vulnerable,” said Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of Barr’s Climate Program. “It is our privilege to support MyRWA’s efforts to advance solutions at a more expansive, watershed scale.”
As executive director of The Boston Harbor Association, Wormser was instrumental in in drawing attention to Boston’s need to prepare for coastal flooding from extreme storms and sea level rise. She coauthored Preparing for the Rising Tide and Designing With Water and co-led the Boston Living with Water international design competition with the City of Boston and Boston Society of Architects. She will join MyRWA as its deputy director beginning July 1st.
“Three of the US cities most engaged in climate preparedness—Boston, Cambridge and Somerville—are located in the Mystic River Watershed,” said Wormser. “This grant will allow us collectively to share information and lessons learned since Superstorm Sandy with lower-resourced municipalities. By working regionally and with the State, we can also create multiple benefit solutions such as riverfront greenways that double as flood protection. It’s very inspiring.”