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Revere’s Open Space & Environmental Planner seeks united approach to climate change

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Climate change scientists predict sea levels will rise by 1.3 feet by 2030, 2.5 feet by 2050 and 4.3 feet by 2070.

No coastal city or town can win against the onslaught of an oncoming ocean, but together as a region, the coastline can strengthen its resilience and adapt. Elle Baker, Revere’s Open Space and Environmental Planner stressed the united approach to climate change at a recent meeting to discuss the Saugus River Watershed Adaptation Plan.

“We want to look at what we can do as a region,” said Baker who explained that Revere, Lynn, Saugus, Malden and Everett are teaming up to develop strategies for flood protection.

“We’re looking at this through a regional scope,” said Baker.

Coastal scientist Conor Ofshun displayed maps that showed some of the most vulnerable local spots, such as Point of Pines, Revere Beach and Bristol Street.

“We’re looking at what critical infrastructure is at risk,” said Ofshun. “We’re trying to identify what roads may be impassable, what public transit will be disrupted, which police and fire departments will be affected and if schools face risks of flooding.”

Ofshun said problems and risks from flooding, erosion and storms will become greater with climate change and rising sea levels. To meet this challenge, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Municipal Vulnerability Program has launched an MVP action grants program that provides funding to communities looking at climate change adaptation actions to ease the impact of climate change. The Saugus River Watershed Vulnerability and Adaptation study was funded by a $150,872 grant from EEA.

The study has been focused mostly on municipal infrastructure and risks such as hazardous material sites, hospitals and ambulance routes, waste facilities such as Wheelabrator.

Identifying vulnerabilities and areas at risk is the first step, along with educating and informing the public. The next step involves a variety of measures meant to bolster the region’s adaptation and resilience to climate change.

There are common natural strategies, or green infrastructure such as living shorelines that use trees and plants to stabilize coastlines. Porous pavement and vegetative buffers in large parking areas reduce stormwater runoff. Gravity-based drainage systems that channel stormwater away from critical buildings and facilities are another common green solution.

Another approach involves structural changes to the region’s transportation system such as seawalls, floodgates, expanding undersized culverts and raising roadways, bridges and utilities.

Policy changes such as zoning restrictions and land use regulations, conservation easements, stormwater management regulations and fees are also among the mix of measures available to make the region resilient to climate change.

Baker said the grant funding the study is about to end, but the region is seeking more state funding and assistance in planning to protect the region against future climate change threats.

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