en English
en Englishes Spanishpt Portuguesear Arabicht Haitian Creolezh-TW Chinese (Traditional)


Your Local Online News Source for Over 3 Decades

The Floodgate Project Revisited: Latest flooding in town spurs town meeting member to seek selectmen’s help in reviving a dormant project

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Mark E. Vogler


SAUGUS – Several town officials said in the aftermath of last Saturday’s flooding that it’s the worst they’ve seen since the Blizzard of 1978. One of them – Precinct 10 Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian – is calling on town leaders to do their part to help revive the Regional Saugus River Floodgate Project.

Manoogian requested to be recognized at Tuesday (Jan. 23) night’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting set for 7 p.m. in the second floor auditorium at Saugus Town Hall. “I am requesting that I be placed under correspondence on the next Board of Selectmen Agenda to discuss the flooding that took place on January 13th,” Manoogian wrote in a letter to selectmen this week.

“Specifically, I would like the Board to possibly take an action to either:

1. Immediately endorse the Saugus River Floodgate Project and to communicate such to our state and federal delegations or

2. to create a sub-committee, with members of your choosing, to report back to the Board within 30 days on the Saugus River Floodgate Project,” he said.

“While I am hopeful that you will support the former suggestion, I can understand that several Board members may want the time to learn more or to hear back from what comes out of the latter suggestion. I have attached an updated brochure describing the current state of the project. Hopefully this will be sufficient information for the Board to make an informed decision to move forward.”

Saugus is one of five North Shore communities that would benefit from the Regional Saugus River Floodgate Project. The cites of Everett, Lynn, Malden and Revere – communities that were hit hard by the Blizzard of 1978 – are also involved.

Flood waters damaged over 3,100 buildings, affected 10,000 residents and 20,000 employees and cut off transportation for 400,000 commuters, according to Robert Hunt, a retired federal official who worked for 33 years as a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Damages were estimated at $72 million – the equivalent of $332 million in 2023 dollars.

In his retirement, Hunt continues to work with Manoogian and a handful of other officials across the region who continue to lobby the federal government and Massachusetts to update the project’s planning and ultimately fund the project.

Panetta told The Saugus Advocate on Wednesday (Jan. 17) that she requested Manoogian’s letter to be included on the agenda for next Tuesday night’s meeting and that board members would be discussing it. “The floodgate project will be on the agenda at the next Board of Selectmen meeting under correspondence. We will discuss the project and how to move forward,” Panetta said.

Panetta is president of the Saugus River Watershed Council, which has been a strong advocate for the floodgate project. “The Saugus River Watershed Council would like to see the floodgate project fully funded,” Panetta said this week.

“It has been very successful in other high risk communities, like New Bedford, for example. The more people we can get to attend community meetings, the stronger voice we will have,” she said.

Panetta, a lifelong Saugus resident who has been active in her hometown’s local government for more than three decades, welcomed a public discussion of the recent flooding. “This was the worst that I’ve ever seen flooding in Saugus,” Panetta said.

“Not only did the water cause significant damage, it was alarming for the residents who were impacted. I want to thank our Fire and Police Departments and DPW for assisting our residents during this difficult time,” she said.


A $3 million study that’s needed

Meanwhile, Hunt urges Manoogian and other regional local officials to lobby their elected state and federal officials for funding to back the floodgate project. “With sea level rise accelerating and greater risks from climate-change enhanced storms becoming more intense in the mid-2030s and 40s, it is critical that the updated Feasibility Study be initiated as soon as possible either by the Federal Government or the Commonwealth, and if a project is approved by both, it should proceed immediately into final design,” Hunt said. “The communities are seeking support and up to $3 million (50/50 Federal cost share) for this Boston North Shore Feasibility Study.”

President Biden authorized the study in December of 2022, but it has yet to be funded.

Hunt planned the regional floodgate project from 1985–1990 with the help of five Steering Committees from Saugus, Revere, Lynn and Malden, and state and federal agencies and private interests. The project involved more than 100 meetings to evaluate problems and alternatives and in 1990 selected the Regional Project. “The Corps spent $2.6 million during the investigation to interview thousands of folks, to determine the levels of flooding from various storms, the damages for over 4,000 homes and businesses, and to design and evaluate many plans,” Hunt said.


An update on the Watershed Council’s work

Panetta said the Saugus River Watershed Council continues to work on a Regional Shoreline Prioritization and Adaptation Plan.

“The impacts of coastal storms, sea level rise, and other climate hazards are not beholden to City or Town borders,” Panetta said.

“While the communities of Lynn, Revere, Saugus, Everett, and Malden are unique in their neighborhoods, cultures, and identities, they share the coastal hazards associated with the Saugus River Watershed. The region is subjected to high tide and sunny day flooding under current conditions, coastal flooding frequency and severity will significantly increase throughout the region with sea level rise and increasing storm intensity due to climate change,” she said.

“A regional problem requires regional partnerships and solutions. This is why these five communities along with state agencies MassDOT, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the MBTA have come together to conduct a vulnerability study that will give the region a more holistic understanding of current and future coastal risk within the Saugus River Watershed. Saugus Pines River Regional Advocacy for Resilience (SPRARR) was established in 2021 with a common vision to collaborate for a more resilient region. With funding assistance from the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness MVP Climate Action Grant.”

Contact Advocate Newspapers