Governor supports legislative flood control initiative (One Response)

As State Representative, I have been following through on state action
priorities developed by the Arlington-Belmont-Cambridge Stormwater Flooding
Board, on which I previously served. (The Board is continuing to make good
progress under the very able leadership of Arlington Selectman Clarissa
Rowe.)

There are three top state action priorities for controlling flooding in our
communities.

(1) Keeping the channels of the Alewife and Mystic clear of obstruction,
which DCR has committed to do;
(2) rebuilding the Craddock Bridge in Medford to maximize the amount of
water that it allows out, which is well underway through the efforts of
folks in Medford and the Mass. Highway Department;
(3) increasing pumping capacity and modifying operating protocols at the
Earhart Dam, which I have been working towards in this legislative session.

Getting funding in the budget to address the pumping capacity at the Earhart
dam was one of my priority efforts over the past six months. I have been
very pleased by the support that my colleagues in the legislature have given
to this funding. I especially have appreciated the support of
Representative Donato of Medford who is a member of the leadership team.

I am also very pleased to report today that the Governor chose to support
the funding. We received the Governor’s veto message today, and he did not
veto this project, although he did veto other earmarked projects in the same
line item.

I view this non-veto as a very good sign for future cooperation between
state and local authorities in addressing flooding issues. The Secretary of
the Environmental Affairs, Ian Bowles has been willing to take a direct
interest in regional flooding concerns. I am very optimistic that we will
have good collaboration with the state agencies over the next few years.
Below is a press statement on these issues which I authored and released
this week. Stories are likely to run in several local papers over the next
week or two.

=================================================================

Citizens in low lying neighborhoods along the Mystic River and Alewife Brook
— from Winchester and Belmont to Everett — may, in the long-term, see
some relief from flooding as a result of a new initiative in this year’s
state budget.

Representative Paul Donato of Medford, Chair of the House Committee on
Steering and Policy announced the appropriation of $100,000 to take first
steps towards improving the pumping capacity of the Amelia Earhart Dam.

The Amelia Earhart Dam seals the end of the Mystic River in Everett from the
high tides of Boston Harbor. The water in the Mystic River and Alewife
Brook is maintained at about mid-tide level, all the way out to Little Pond
in Belmont and the Lower Mystic Lake at the Arlington/Medford line. When
rain has been heavy and the tide is high and the dam is closed, water can
pile up behind the dam.

Said Donato, “studies done for the town of Winchester suggest that an
additional pump could make a difference in flooding. These funds will
allow the state to verify those studies and evaluate the feasibility of
adding a pump.”

Representative Donato was the lead signer of a letter to the legislature’s
House and Senate Ways and Means Committees earlier this year that requested
the funds. The letter was also signed by all of the Representatives and
Senators along the Mystic River.

Representative Paul Casey of Winchester noted that “Winchester has a severe
flooding problem and we have been working hard to solve it for several
years. Our work suggests that an additional pump could draw down flooding
in the Belmont to Medford stretch of the watershed. That, in turn would
allow us to implement measures that will give us some relief upstream.”

Said Representative Jim Marzilli of Arlington and Medford, “The Sunnyside
neighborhood of Arlington, at the confluence of the Mystic and the Alewife,
has some of the worst flooding in the area. I’m committed to taking every
step possible to solve this problem.”

Marzilli noted that another important improvement in flooding will come from
the rebuilding of the Craddock Bridge over the Mystic in Medford
Square . “Representative
Donato and I feel that the new bridge will significantly increase the clear
opening to draw down flooding through the bridge,” he said.

Clarissa Rowe, an Arlington Selectman, and the current chair of the
Arlington-Belmont-Cambridge Storm Water Flooding Board said that the other
key element of flood control along the Alewife Brook and in the Mystic River
is the simple maintenance of the channels, especially around the
bridges. “Obstructions
caused by branches and other debris can make flooding much worse. We are
pleased that the Department of Conservation and Recreation has affirmed its
commitment to channel maintenance.”

Representative Denise Provost of Somerville welcomed the initiative,
stating that “periodic flooding in Somerville is known to be related to
operation of the Earhart dam.” Provost, sponsor of a bill to improve Mystic
River quality also noted that “controlling flooding and improving water
quality go hand in hand. Flooding contributes to sewage overflows, which,
in turn, lower water quality. What makes flooding in the Mystic basin so
bad is the fact that these flood waters are typically contaminated with
sewage.”

Representative Stat Smith of Everett commented that he wants to see the
feasibility study results and confirm that improving the pumping capacity
will benefit Everett and have no side-effects. Said Smith, “This
initiative is a careful step forward and I am satisfied that we’ll be able
to know where we stand before going further.”

Senators Bob Havern, Steven Tolman and Pat Jehlen, who also joined in the
original letter, all indicated their support for the initiative. Senator
Tolman is vice-Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and served on
the conference committee that finalized the budget. Said Havern, “this is a
complex problem. We are now coming together to connect the dots and create
long-term watershed-wide initiatives.”

Representative Will Brownsberger of Belmont, a past chair of the
Arlington-Belmont-Cambridge Storm Water Flooding Board said “this progress
reflects the hard work of many caring people.” He added, “we all look
forward to working with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to
make this initiative successful. We are also hopeful that by changing
operating protocols for the dam, we can reduce flooding risks even before a
new pump is added.”

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    Will Brownsberger
    State Senator
    2d Suffolk and Middlesex District