Communities vulnerable to climate change get $2m in state grants
In one of its first acts to address climate change, the Baker administration awarded more than $2 million in grants to 15 coastal communities on Friday to reduce their vulnerability to rising seas, erosion, flooding, and increasingly powerful storms.
The aid follows $5 million in similar grants to coastal cities and towns awarded during the Patrick administration.
The latest grants include $350,000 to help Boston identify its vulnerabilities and fortify neighborhoods against flooding; nearly $400,000 for Winthrop to repair tide gates and reduce the erosion of its shores; and more than $250,000 for New Bedford to study how to prevent flooding of its sewer pump stations.
“With these programs and others, we will ensure that Massachusetts continues to be a leader in addressing climate change,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said in a prepared statement.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton added: “These projects provide communities both the funding and the technical assistance needed to proactively protect important infrastructure and coastal shoreline habitats and natural resources.”
Environmental advocates applauded the grants, but they urged the administration to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing the state’s vulnerabilities to climate change.
“We think the Commonwealth needs a plan before the Commonwealth spends significant amounts of taxpayer dollars,” said Jack Clarke, director of public policy for Mass Audubon and co-chairman of the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition.
He urged Governor Charlie Baker to support a bill that passed the state Senate this summer that would require the state to develop a management plan to adapt to the changing climate.
“There needs to be a rhyme or reason to these grants, and the state should have a clear set of policies in place,” Clarke said.
Stephen Long, a spokesman for the Massachusetts chapter of The Nature Conservancy, called the grants a “great start to help communities be more resilient.”
But he, too, called on the administration to support the climate bill.
“Without an integrated approach, we remain vulnerable to climate change impacts,” he said. “We have solemn reminders as we approach the anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene of how extreme weather and temperatures can wreak havoc on public safety, health, and the economy.”
Peter Lorenz, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, declined to comment on whether the governor supports the bill.
“Governor Baker will review all legislation that comes to his desk,” he said.
The grants were awarded to Barnstable, Boston, Brewster, Chelsea, Dennis, Edgartown, Essex, Falmouth, Lynn, New Bedford, Plymouth, Quincy, Sandwich/Barnstable, Scituate, and Winthrop.
Officials at the Office of Coastal Zone Management, which will oversee whether the municipalities are spending the money as promised, said the latest round of grants focus more on action than planning.
“Communities have progressed from assessing erosion and flooding vulnerabilities to more on-the-ground implementation efforts, including infrastructure retrofits and beach restoration,” said Julia Knisel, the office’s shoreline and floodplain manager.