By Adam Swift
Last week, Governor Maura Healey’s announcement of $31.5 million in FY2024 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grants included nearly $5.7 million in funding for community-designed projects to prevent harm to residents, workers, and resources in Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC) cities and towns, including Revere and East Boston.
Convened by ten Mystic Watershed communities and the Mystic River Watershed Association in September 2018 and now led by senior staff from 20 cities and towns and non-governmental partners, the RMC focuses on managing flooding and extreme heat on a regional scale and increasing the resilience of vulnerable residents and workers to extreme weather.
“Boston and Revere received $330,500 from MVP to partner on the design of coastal resilience infrastructure, recreational open space, and ecological restoration along Bennington Street in East Boston and Frederick’s Park in Revere,” said Catherine McCandless, Climate Resilience Project Manager in Boston’s Environment Department.
“This funding will help us take the next step to protect our neighborhoods from coastal flooding while enhancing valuable open space for people and wildlife.”
In addition, Revere received $154,000 for continued support of a regional climate resilience partnership among Revere, Lynn, Malden, Everett and Malden called the Saugus Pines River Advocates for Regional Resiliency (SPRARR).
“Working together as a region to implement solutions in partnership with state agencies increases our capacity and ultimately yields a better long-term solution for addressing climate change and the
immediate threat of sea-level rise for communities in the Saugus/Pines River Watershed,” said Elle Baker, Revere’s Open Space and Environmental Planner.
These MVP grants bring the total resources secured for climate resilient projects to $61.4 million in state, federal, and foundation grants since the voluntary partnership began, with the goal of at least doubling that amount by 2026, when new federal grant programs begin to sunset.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to position Massachusetts as a global leader in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the MVP program is an important piece of our strategy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “The Healey-Driscoll Administration is glad to support our local communities with funding for innovative climate resilience projects that center environmental justice and nature-based solutions.”
The largest MVP grant—nearly $3 million—went to Malden River Works (MRW), a riverfront park led and designed by environmental justice residents in partnership with the City of Malden’s Department of Public Works.
The 76-square-mile Mystic River Watershed stretches from Reading through the northern shoreline of Boston Harbor to Revere. An Anglicized version of the Pequot word missi-tuk (“large river with wind- and tide-driven waves”), it is now one of New England’s most densely populated, urbanized watersheds.
The seven-mile Mystic River and its tributaries represented an early economic engine for colonial Boston. Ten shipyards built more than 500 clipper ships in the 1800s before roads and railways replaced schooners and steamships. Tide-driven mills, brickyards and tanneries along both banks of the river brought both wealth and pollution.
In the 1960s, the Amelia Earhart Dam transformed much of the river into a freshwater impoundment, while construction of Interstate 93 filled in wetlands and dramatically changed the river’s course. Since then, many former industrial sites have been cleaned up and redeveloped into new commercial areas and residential communities.
The Mystic is facing growing climate-related challenges: coastal and stormwater flooding, extreme storms, heat, drought and unpredictable seasonal weather. The watershed is relatively low-lying and extensively developed, making it prone to both freshwater and coastal flooding. Its 21 municipalities are home to 600,000 residents, including many who are disproportionately vulnerable to extreme weather: environmental justice communities, new Americans, residents of color, elders, low-income residents and employees, people living with disabilities and English-language learners.