Public Forum for Climate Change Resilience - Jun 11th, 2018

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Held at the Arlington Senior Center, and organized by the Department of Planning and Community Development.

Nat Strosberg (Planning Dept) gives opening remarks. The town has finished the first phase of a municipal vulnerability preparedness (MVP) project. MVP is an effort to help communities address weather-related hazards caused by climate change. The town received a $23k planning grant to study vulnerabilities.

The MVP process involved eight hours of workshops, held over the course of two days. Approximately 30 stakeholders attended. We summarized information from these workshops, and used that as a basis for planning our next steps. The town received a grant of $339k for phase II, to implement resiliency measures.

Ann LeRoyer (Open Space Committee) speaks next. Working with our consultants, we identified six types of hazards: extreme heat, storm surge and sea level rise, heavy rainfall, ice and snow storms, drought, and wing. The second and third hazards (storm surge and sea level rise, heavy rainfall) could be combined under the category of flooding. From this list, flooding, snow and ice, and heat were chosen as the most serious.

These hazards can cause a variety of impacts: disruption to transportation, environmental quality, and societal factors.

Of the vulnerable locations in town, Mill Brook bubbled up as the most important to address. It's susceptible to flooding, which could affect town facilities (e.g., the DPW yard and high school). Mill Brook has several pinch points which inhibit water flow during storms. The brook has issues with shoreline erosion. There are 100 or so abutters, which makes it challenging to coordinate mitigation efforts.

Spy pond and the Arlington reservoir are also subject to water quality issues.

Transportation can be impacted by all kinds of storms, and this affects everyone in town.

Heat islands are a concern for elderly residents, particularly in some of our larger apartment buildings.

Trees are both a benefit and a hazard. They provide heat mitigation, but they also cause damage.

Municipal facilities can offer protection during storms, but some are located in flood-prone areas. The DPW yard and high school, for example. Many town buildings don't have central air conditioning, like town hall and the senior center.

The town is attempting to work with Eversource to diversify our electricity supply, and to implement micro grids. Micro grids and supply diversity should reduce the impact of power outages.

The Amelia Earhardt dam has a very important flood control function: it protects the area against sea water surges. There are concerns about how well the dam will fulfill this role over time.

Brucie Moulton (Sustainable Arlington) is next. Many of the things Ann mentioned are also strengths, and we can plan for them. During the workshops, we concluded that people were the town's biggest asset. There's a lot of social connections and activism among Arlington residents. We have a good foundation to build on.

We have some physical resources in town. The Ed Burns area is generator-ready. The Thompson school has an emergency generator, and is already designated as an emergency shelter.

We have open space and green infrastructure. Trees reduce heat island effects. Open space tends to absorb storm water and reduce runoff.

Summer street is outside the flood plain, and provides a parallel evacuation route to Mass Ave.

Susan Chapnick (Conservation Commission) Speaks next. We've developed a set of recommendations to improve resilience, and the Mill Brook corridor will get primary consideration. There's a need for flood control, and an opportunity for ecological restoration. Our first implementation project will involve a section of Mill Brook.

East Arlington is also near the top, due to flooding and heat island effects. The town will prioritize tree planting in East Arlington. We'll attempt to form a partnership with DCR for flood control and dam management. This is a long-term goal.

Mass Ave is one of the town's main transportation routes, and will be subject to severe heat island effects. We'd like to decrease the use of cars and increase the use of bikes, along with planting more trees. We want to address heat island effects caused by large buildings and parking lots.

We can employ green infrastructure techniques during new building construction (e.g., the high school). The town may require policy changes in this area.

The conservation commission recently updated its wetland regulations, to consider the effects of climate change. Applicants are required to mitigate climate change effects.

It's important to work with neighboring communities, because none of this takes place in a vacuum. For example, Cambridge has made a big effort to separate their sewer systems and eliminate CSOs.

There are smaller, more targeted actions we can do: updating our storm water bylaws, improving energy efficiency and flood protection in public schools, mitigating bus stop heat islands, regional dam management, and working on public and private green infrastructure projects.

Mill Brook was our first priority, because it hit most of the climate hazard concerns.

Lela Shepherd (Planning Department) speaks next. Heat islands are areas around town that get the warmest. This mostly affects the town business centers.

The state gave us a grant for vulnerability mitigation. $400k was the limit, and we got $339k. The town will have to match 25% of that. This money has to be used within one year, so we needed a plan that was already in place (to meet funding timelines). Mill Brook met that criteria. We plan to widen parts of the brook, remove invasives (Japanese Knotweed), look at underground storage, and bank stabilization. The town plans to release an RFP in the near future.

Question: what's the town's plan to get these high priority projects done.

There was discussion about a state MS-4, which I didn't quite understand. Basically, we have a lot of work to do.

Question: You've described Mill Brook as a pilot project. Will this take care of Mill Brook completely?

No, the grant will only address the middle section of the brook. Many of the problems originate upstream, on the Lexington side.

Question: I understand the town is planning some zoning changes. How will that work?

The town recently did a cleanup of our zoning bylaws, but there weren't any major policy changes. The town is in the process of forming another group to work on policy changes.

Someone points out a couple of typos in the handouts.

Question: Most initiatives seem to be mid- or long-term efforts. Could you consider community education as a short-term project? For example, what should residents do to prepare for a large storm?

The town has an emergency management team, and we are thinking about these sorts of things.

Question: What do you do with pets during a disaster?

We don't have a good answer for that. It's something we should think about.

Question: What about local storage for electricity, and our electric supply from NStar?

We'd like to consider using micro-grids in town. This would mitigate the effects of power outages, along with providing better support for electric vehicles.

Question: In that effort, would the town be at the mercy of Eversource?

We are proactively working with Eversource.

Someone found more typos in the handouts.

Question: The MVP process seems geared towards municipalities. What can private property owners do? Can we help them to avoid unwise decisions?

Residents own the majority of land in Arlington. This effort is a partnership. We try to educate residents when we can.

The MWRA has started an educational effort, where they collaborate with towns. We try to disseminate the information they provide. Right now, it's mostly stormwater related.

Question: Would the town consider a stormwater runoff tax?

We could, but it would have to be phased in over time. Some residents don't agree with these kinds of mitigation efforts.