Newburyport plans public session on resiliency efforts

Members of the Newburyport Resiliency Committee include, from left, co-Chair David Chatfield, Conservation Administrator Julia Godtfredsen, Recycling and Energy Manager Molly Ettenborough and Michael Morris of Storm Surge.  BRYAN EATON/Staff photo

NEWBURYPORT — The city and region are dealing with the growing threat of climate change, with Newburyport officials and a group of residents working together to map out a plan and bring more people into the discussion.

On June 28 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall Auditorium, the city will hold a public listening session to present highlights of a new report and to hear comments on the results of a full-day municipal vulnerability preparedness, or MVP, workshop held April 7.

The goal of the workshop was to identify hazards Newburyport faces that may be made worse by climate change, and to prioritize what the city can do to prepare for the hazards.

The workshop was planned and led by a core team of local officials, city residents and an environmental consulting company, Horsley Witten Group. The program was funded by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs through an MVP planning grant issued to the city. 

One result of the project is MVP certification, which gives communities access to additional state grants for projects related to climate change resiliency. At the public listening session, the city will present the results of the workshop and ask for public comment and questions.

During the workshop, participants concluded the most relevant hazards to Newburyport were storms, including nor’easters, winter storms and hurricanes; bipolar weather, including extreme heat, extreme cold and drought; inland flooding; and sea-level rise. 

The group identified seven “action items,” which will be incorporated into the city’s planning efforts and provided to the Resiliency Committee.

The action items are:

¢ Enhancing the resilience of the wastewater treatment facility in the short term by protecting it from flooding and relocating it in the long term;

¢ Creating short- and long-term plans for managing Plum Island;

¢ Enhancing emergency preparedness and response procedures through the Code Red system and educational programs;

¢ Developing a resiliency study of the Lower Artichoke Reservoir Dam to improve protection of the public water supply;

¢ Improving flood protection of utilities such as water, sewer, electric and gas;

¢ Creating an inventory of coastal infrastructure and conducting an assessment evaluating the efficacy of each component;

¢ Evaluating and planning for raising roadways and modifying culverts in areas of the city where they may be needed due to current or potential inundation risks.

Each of the action items is eligible for future grant funding under the MVP Action Grants program, which is administered through the state.

Through the workshop, Newburyport is also beginning its certification as an MVP certified community, which will enable the city to apply for further grants.

In a meeting at The Daily News, city Conservation Administrator Julia Godtfredsen said the findings from the workshop — along with previously conducted studies, analysis and modeling work — will feed into a resiliency plan.

Godtfredsen also said there is a proposal before the City Council to have someone write the plan.

“We have all the studies and all the information we can get at this point,” Godtfredsen said. “Now, we just need to create that working document that we can use to move forward.”

Newburyport Resiliency Committee co-Chair David Chatfield said he hopes the city will take a joint approach with other communities in tackling coastal issues.

“This has got to be more than just a Newburyport plan. Flooding is happening all down the East Coast,” Chatfield said, adding that he hopes the city can take cues from communities in other areas and states to deal with coastal flooding.

Referring to the upcoming meeting, he said, “It’s a listening session. You’ve got a good basis for prioritizing” where residents and government officials believe money should be spent to secure vulnerable areas, including the wastewater treatment plant, Bartlett Spring pond – a city drinking water source – and other sites. 

To view the complete MVP report, visit: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/sbimp4j6ynu1q2g/AABZFeriNsGBY1kT23Fpnolpa?dl=0&preview=180531_Newburyport+MVP+Report+Final_reduced.pdf 

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury­port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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