By Neil Zolot
EVERETT – The City Council approved an Intermunicipal Agreement with Chelsea allowing the cities to collaboratively address the Island End River Flood Resilience Project at their meeting Monday, August 14. “It’s intended to protect a whole area of the community,” the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Erin Deveney, told the members.
Her comment was in response to the perception the project will benefit only a small group of businesses in the area. She said it will protect 500 acres; 5,000 residents and 11,000 jobs.
The area in question is the two banks of the Island End River. The Everett side to the west is an industrial area filled primarily with gas tanks. The Chelsea side to the east is Admiral’s Hill and Mary O’Malley Park. “The Island End River (IER) is a tributary to the Mystic River and is tidally influenced,” the 202 page February Expanded Environmental Notification Form submitted by Everett and Chelsea to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs prepared by consultants Fort Point Associates begins. “The area is home to critical infrastructure including the New England Produce Center, the regional FBI headquarters, Massachusetts General Hospital, Chelsea’s Carter Street Pump Station, Williams Middle School, and High School.
“The project is critical for the flood protection of the IER floodplain and surrounding low-lying areas in Everett and Chelsea, which include the residences of environmental justice communities, significant transportation (rail and roadway) infrastructure, health care facilities, a grocery store serving much of the community, and a public high school, that will become part of the projected IER floodplain by 2070.”
“Climate studies show changes in sea levels pose a risk to areas not presently prone to flooding,” Deveney explained. “We see risks to flooding in older areas of the city. If we don’t take action, there could be flooding. The response is we would work collaboratively to the mutual benefit of both communities.”
She informed the Council that Chelsea is “further along in their efforts,” but Everett has “been brought up to speed.”
The proposed Flood Resilience Project will construct an approximately 4,640-linear-foot storm surge barrier, an approximately 2,900-square-foot underground storm surge control facility, approximately 50,000 square feet of nature-based solutions along the riverfront, and associated wetland and public access improvements along the river. “Some of the work will be construction of a seawall with a gate to protect the area, similar to other harbor communities,” Deveney explained.
The storm surge control facility will be a gate or gates that control tidal flows. Nature-based solutions include upgrading river slopes by planting.
The Island End Park is a mix of urban wild and manicured greenspace and provides the community with limited waterfront access, and the project will provide public amenities, such as a resilient riverwalk, which has been designed to increase community access to the waterfront in the form of an elevated boardwalk and vegetated berm sections.
Prompted by a question from Ward 6 Councillor Alfred Lattanzi, she said Eminent Domain acquisitions might be needed, but they would not necessarily be hostile.
Everett and Chelsea are pursuing grants collectively and individually. Either might take a lead role for some grants. “Our legislative delegation has been pursuing state dollars, and we’ve been aggressive pursuing federal dollars,” Deveney said. “The amount of money can vary between the communities based on how much is done in Everett and Chelsea, but work on the Everett side could have a significant benefit to Chelsea. The same is true from the other side.”
Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Matewsky was not fully satisfied with Deveney’s remarks. He called certain interested parties “a small group of business people who have no interest in the neighborhood. The Island End group is a farce. It’s a disgrace down there; it’s no man’s land and has been for years. This is a con job.”
Nevertheless, he said he would vote for the measure “because Chelsea will pay their fair share.”
Councillors want to know what role their body might play. “The role of the Council will be very much like the residents of the city,” Deveney answered. “I don’t see any day-to-day involvement by the Council, but you can review plans and, if there are specific concerns you have, they can be taken to Everett and Chelsea for review.”
She also said a third party will be hired as a project manager. “Having an external project manager will ensure both communities are living up to their obligations.”