Former Chairman James Shanley stepped down Feb. 13 from that leadership post, and new Chairman Tom Salemi was elected by the five-member board. Hopefully, this change is a sign that the authority now will listen to the people, acknowledge that the authority’s job was finished long ago, and help the city move on from the stalemate that has wasted a lot of energy for years and will only continue to do so.
Having caught up to the present requires us all to acknowledge that there is a new threat to the waterfront, one far more dangerous than more buildings and less open space. It’s even larger than the damage caused by one big storm, like a Sandy. Mayor Menino of Boston is calling on our oceanside capital city to prepare for sea level rise, part of climate change. Cities and towns around the Merrimack River’s mouth need to do the same.
Clearly, we need the same survey that has been done on New Hampshire’s little coast and for the Boston area, so we can know what the Atlantic has in mind, when it will occur and what its effects will be. The Newburyport waterfront will be in the forefront of these impacts.
In addition to the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s waterfront proposal, there’s also an expansion of waterfront services buildings and the development plans of Stephen Karp to consider. Surely this construction has to take sea level rise into consideration.
While our town and city officials and Plum Island property owners grapple with trying to protect threatened buildings and the water and sewer system on Plum Island, we are fortunate that a new group of scientists and citizens is forming to address sea level rise.
If you think compromise between the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and the Committee for an Open Waterfront Inc. would be tough, try being on one side of the table with the Atlantic Ocean, Mother Nature and Earth on the other.
John Harwood of Newbury is a retired community journalist and a patriot.