What will climate change look like in Winthrop’s future? It looks like what the town has been experiencing with flooding along Morton Street, Pico, Ingleside Park, Shirley Street near the marina, Coughlin Park or other areas either effected by 100-year storms that seem to come every other year.
Last Wednesday night about 30 people packed the Hazlett Room at the Library to hear about “Winthrop Engages: Climate Change” from Town Manager Austin Faison, Julie Wormser of the Mystic River Watershed Association and Leah Robbins of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
Last June the town received a municipal vulnerability program designation, which provides support and grants for cities and towns in Massachusetts to plan for resiliency and implement key climate change adaptation actions for resiliency.
Faison said climate change even plays a factor into where the town can build a public safety building.
“It will have to be the best building in the whole town,” Faison said.
“Climate change is here”, Faison said. “Last year was a prime example of how sustainable Winthrop is. During the Bombcyclone event, astronomical high tides were occurring at the same time as a N’oreaster. There was nowhere to put the water or to push it out.”
The town is currently looking at plans for a large underwater storage container at Ingleside Park. A $13 million Center Business District infrastructure is in the works to alleviate flooding in that section of Town.
Winthrop has taken a proactive approach to flood control and sea level rise with the living seawall at Coughlin Park and officials higher are pointing to it as an option to concrete seawalls.
“There are serious concerns from my office and the region if Winthrop is severely impacted by rising sea levels,” Faison said, adding the greatest concern is being cut off. “We have to pursue this regionally. We want to be involved with Boston, Revere and Chelsea.”
That’s what Julie Wormser, deputy director of the Mystic River Watershed, has been working on showing the areas around the Mystic River Watershed (from Boston Harbor to Chelsea and the tail end in Winthrop). What happens with sea-level rise? The rivers form a stronger connection and flood. Wormser showed a map of the area from 1850-2017. Around the 1970s you see an inflection where the beginning of climate change seems to first show.
“We can see the earth is getting warmer,” Wormer said. “We should be naming our rainstorms because we are getting so much damage from them.”
Robins said she has been working with the 15 mayors and managers who make up the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition (Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop.) to tackle climate preparedness. In addition to the MVP program, there is also the SolSmart program making solar energy easy to access. She also stressed the importance of climate resilient zoning.