Newburyport Resilience Committee Seeks to Address Climate Issues | Local News

NEWBURYPORT – City officials are ready to implement the climate resilience plan after assessing climate risks and vulnerabilities such as sea level rise and storm surges across four studies in recent years.

Mayor Donna Holaday and members of the Resilience Committee presented the plan to the public on February 18 via Zoom.

The plan includes recommendations in four key areas: capital infrastructure, administration and regulation, communication and education, and carbon footprint reduction.

Going forward, the solutions will take a lot of grant writing and creative thinking, but the mayor said she was “really pleased” with the community’s response to the initial presentation of the plan.

In December, the city’s contractor, George R. Cairns and Sons Inc., began construction around the sewage treatment facility, one of the key infrastructure vulnerable to flooding.

The contractor is completing work on a sloped stone revetment wall, intended to stabilize approximately 900 feet of Merrimack River shoreline, as well as a raised berm behind the wall.

Once complete, the contractor will open a trail on top to complete the missing waterfront segment of the Clipper City Rail Trail.

The city received a $1 million grant from the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, a $100,000 grant from the state’s MassTrails grant program, and local matching funding to go from the forward with the project, which is expected to be completed by June.

In the long term, the city will need to consider moving the sewage treatment facility to better protect the plant.

Other areas in need of infrastructure improvements and strategies include the public water supply, which is vulnerable to contamination from polluted floodwaters, and the National Grid electrical substation at 95 Water St., which should also be moved.

Plum Island was covered extensively in the plan due to its vulnerability to flooding, sea level rise, storm surges, and extreme weather events.

Efforts to address man-made issues such as jetties and the effects of climate change will require partnerships between city officials and residents, Newbury officials and residents, heads of state and the US Army Corp. of Engineers.

Resilience committee chair David Chatfield said everyone needs to work together to implement short-term and long-term strategies.

In part, this means that all city officials must consider the impact of storms, flooding and heat on any project they pursue.

“I would like to see more consideration for the impacts of climate change on any project in the city, whether it is controlled by the city or whether it is controlled by individual companies or whether it is controlled by individuals,” did he declare.

Education is a major component of the climate resilience plan. Real estate agents, for example, should be prepared to inform potential buyers about flooding and other risks of living in a coastal city, Chatfield said.

Beyond capital infrastructure and administrative solutions, each resident must consider the changes they can make to their own lives.

Michael Morris, the plan’s lead author and former co-chair of the committee, said a majority of the carbon footprint in the United States comes from electricity use and transportation.

Residents should look to reduce their carbon footprint by switching to LED bulbs, investing in solar panels and using efficient appliances, he said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has indicated that humans must reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by around 45% before 2030. The goal is carbon neutrality by 2050.

If communities don’t work together to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, there could be devastating effects on ecological systems and the ability to grow food, Morris said.

“The decisions you make every day can make a difference,” Holaday said. “Can you walk those two blocks to the store instead of driving? Could you hop on your bike?”

The committee is actively seeking volunteers to help implement some of the strategies outlined in this plan. Interested persons are invited to contact the town hall for more information.

To learn more about the Resilience Committee or to view a recording of the presentation, visit www.cityofnewburyport.com/recycling-energy-resiliency-sustainability/resiliency-sustainability.

Teresa H. Sadler