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Scituate, Marshfield, and Duxbury partnering with MAPC for coastal study

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 14, 2011 04:15 PM

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For coastal residents, storms and excessive high tides aren’t the only worrisome parts to living on the water.

Rumors abound that sea levels are rising, and communities along the South Shore are spending millions to ensure that their coastal infrastructure is staying intact.

To help better understand the future along the water’s edge, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council is partnering with three towns to study the impacts of climate change on coastal infrastructure.

Scituate, Marshfield, and Duxbury will all be a part of the study, which will focus on current issues for coastal protection and maintenance, how those conditions might change as sea levels rise, and what adaption options are available to mitigate future problems.

The meeting will be conducted on Oct. 27 at the Marshfield Senior Center, at 230 Webster St. in Marshfield. Residents from all three towns are invited to participate.

The proactive approach was something the three towns went it together on with an application to the state's District Local Technical Assistance Program (DLTA). The grant money will help pay for the coastal study, which is expected to be complete by end of December 2011.

"The study is looking at the existing coastal infrastructure issues that each of those towns have individually or are collectively experiencing, and how can the conditions of the coast change with sea level rise," said Barry Keppard, an MAPC regional planner. "It is a look at what are the options going forward - is it to continue to look at infrastructure and rebuild, or are there other options that could be considered?"

It’s an issue that has garnered the attention of many in recent months, especially with the Blizzard of 2010, which severely damaged sea walls in both Scituate and Marshfield.

Additionally, Marshfield dealt with significant sea wall problems in May 2010, when shifting rocks caused the seawall to lean towards the ocean.

Scituate also dealt with sea wall damage from a storm in 2007, and just recently received federal funding to repair that damage.

Although most of Duxbury’s coast isn’t shored up with seawalls, the numerous homes on the waterfront, and the popular Duxbury beach would see major consequences if the water continues to rise.

"I think people are generally concerned, but I think there are levels of knowledge people might not be familiar with yet," Keppard said. "[With this meeting] we’re looking to broaden that knowledge".

As a result, the project will explore current and potential future coastal vulnerabilities in order to identify adaptation options. MAPC then hopes to gather information about resources that could support local actions and strategies.

"Community awareness is a big part of it, but the goal too is to build a collaborative effort to begin, and take these things into account, taking these changes and looking forward to where their futures are going to be," Keppard said.

The study will be an additional step to processes that MAPC has already taken on in an effort to minimize potential storm damage.

Many communities, such as Hingham, Braintree, Marshfield, Duxbury, and Scituate, have already spent significant time planning and updating a Hazard Mitigation Plan, a document to help plan for flooding, wind damage, and other problems associated with storms, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

By updating the plan every five years, as required by federal law, residents within these communities have access to a variety of grants.

Although seawall improvements are generally not funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (the organization behind MAPC), the town might be eligible for other infrastructure improvements.

The Marshfield event will occur on Oct. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. To RSVP, please visit www.mapc.org and go to events. For more information, call Barry Keppard, an MAPC regional planner, at 617-451-2770, ext. 2083.

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