Climate Preparedness Week and other Resiliency Efforts
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The Manchester-by-the-Sea Public Library, in partnership with the Massachusetts Library System and Climate CREW (Communities Responding to Extreme Weather) are celebrating Climate Preparedness Week which runs September 24-30. A virtual lecture and numerous hands-on activities geared toward different age levels are planned. For a complete list of the activities and how to register visit the Library’s web site.
Featured guided walks include a leisurely walk up Powder House Hill Thursday, 9/29 late morning and a more strenuous two-hour hike through the Wilderness Conservation Area that straddles the Manchester/Essex town line on Friday morning, 9/30. Manchester Essex Conservation Trust’s Jeff Cochand will lead the Powder House Hill excursion and MECT board member Tom Barrieau will lead the Wilderness Area hike. Part of the conversations during the outings will include the importance of local land conservation as part of broader efforts to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The importance of healthy ecosystems and the role they can play in making us more resilient to the impacts of climate change is the focus of a second year of study being conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design on behalf of the four municipalities of Cape Ann. Funding for this second-year effort was secured from the State by Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.
(Year 1 efforts are wrapping up and have included a simulation of a Category 3 hurricane on the area, options for how to mitigate some of these devasting impacts, strategies for net zero affordable housing, and emerging technologies for waste to energy conversion (especially timely as Gloucester begins to evaluate plans for a new wastewater treatment plant that could serve all of Cape Ann. These studies can be found on the web site of TownGreen, a Cape Ann organization advocating for climate resiliency.)
The study will include conducting an inventory of our open spaces – upland forests, wetlands, salt marshes, and coastline – assessing their current health, and developing recommendations for how we can improve the health of these important ecosystems in order that they help guard against the worst impacts climate change could bring. Pilot improvement projects will be undertaken in each of the ecosystem types, including an urban environment that can contain small areas of natural habitats providing a surprising level of benefit to a neighborhood.
Through a separate state grant, Manchester will be studying options for better protecting our core Village area, including our waste water treatment plant and Town Hall, from bigger storms and rising sea levels. Numerous options will be explored, from nature-based solutions to more traditional “armoring” techniques (e.g.: higher seawalls, a harbor storm gate.) As part of this local study we want to be sure to capture the preferred approaches a majority of residents have for protection against bigger storms and rising seas. We will work with our younger residents in an outreach program that includes one on one interviews as well as more traditional public forums to capture the ideas and preferences residents have.
Both of these new projects will be getting underway in the coming months. Interested in getting more involved? Volunteers are needed to help guide the work and educate your fellow residents about the findings of the studies and how we might best put to use the results. Please be in touch through the Selectmen’s Office at Town Hall.