MA - State launches new coastal-resiliency initiative
BEVERLY — Local and state officials gathered with members of the press at the Carriage House on Tuesday morning as Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll announced the launch of the Commonwealth’s ResilientCoasts initiative, a plan to design and fund long-term solutions to rising sea levels for Massachusetts’s 78 coastal communities.
As part of ResilientCoasts, the Commonwealth will hire a chief coastal resiliency officer within the Office of Coastal Zone Management. Working with local communities, CZM will establish coastal resilience districts based on the unique climate-related impacts they face. ResilientCoasts also includes assembling a coastal resilience task force with representation from communities, businesses, scientists, community-based organizations, and environmental advocates.
According to National Oceanic Atmospheric Association data, flooding in Massachusetts has increased more than threefold since 2000 due to a sea-level rise averaging 1 inch every eight years. The new initiative, Healey said, will take a proactive approach to bolstering the state’s shorelines and help establish revenue streams to fund local coastal-infrastructure improvements through strategies such as nature-based solutions, dredging, coastal nourishment, roadway elevation, and managed retreat.
“In 2070, it’s estimated that we could see more than $1 billion in coastal damages each year… if we don’t act, that affects our small businesses or coastal culture. Inaction hurts them the most, so today is about taking action,” Healey said. “This will be our state’s first comprehensive strategy to protect our waterfront communities and ensure a strong and resilient future.”
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper mentioned that the Commonwealth has already seen the impacts of rising sea levels across its 1,500-foot coastline. She mentioned that Boston’s coastline saw a “king tide” on Monday when Long Wharf flooded.
“We’ve seen sea levels rising, combined with more severe storms and coastal erosion. And as we work to slow climate change, we still know that these impacts are going to get worse,” Tepper said. “No one community can do this alone. This is truly a regional and statewide issue that needs to be addressed together.”
This year, Nahant Emergency Management officials held two separate meetings outlining the necessary steps residents can take in the event of a flood or natural disaster. At a meeting between NEM and state Emergency Management Agency Director Dawn Brantley last month, NEM Assistant Director Carl Maccario said that during a Category 3 hurricane, the causeway would be blocked off, isolating Nahant from the rest of Massachusetts.
State Rep. Jenny Armini, whose district comprises three coastal communities — Lynn, Swampscott, and Marblehead — said she was excited to hear that the state was working to directly address climate change’s potential devastation on Massachusetts’ waterfront cities and towns.
“I look at Front Street in Marblehead, I look at the Diamond District in Lynn, or all around Swampscott, and I can see how violent storms and rising sea levels threaten the very livelihood of my entire district,” Armini said. “The coast of Massachusetts hasn’t changed in 3,000 years, but what’s changed is we finally have two people at the top who recognize that there’s a huge problem with climate change that’s endangering our communities, and they’re willing to actually do something about it.”