County Faces Fight For Federal Funds

As I See It

Bill Sargent, The Daily News of Newburyport, Edition July 15, 2019

“Essex County will have to work like hell if it wants to get its share of federal funds to combat sea-level rise. Oh, and don’t expect a fair fight.”

“Those were the implications of a June 19th report that estimated that coastal communities would have to spend $400 billion on seawalls alone during the next 20 years.”

“Of course, places like Cape Cod and Plum Island already knew that seawalls were illegal and had to be continually rebuilt on sandy barrier beaches.” Note: Browse the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Website.

“But seawalls did provide a convenient metric to focus people’s attention on the East Coast as it tries to figure out the best way to divvy up limited funds to protect our sinking shorelines.”

“The report by the Center for Coastal Integrity showed that 240 cities would require $2.4 billion worth of seawalls just to protect themselves against annual storms. But the Army Corps of Engineers, which would most likely do that work, has just discovered that the $14 billion it spent on levees to protect New Orleans will have to be rebuilt because the levees have settled like the Merrimack River jetties.”

“Plus, the corps already had a $98 billion backlog of work and, perhaps not surprisingly, nothing had been budgeted to help New England under the Trump administration.”

“So who should Essex County turn to? The state? Gov. Charlie Baker had just proposed imposing a real estate transfer tax that would raise about a billion dollars over 10 years to help fight coastal erosion and had proposed providing $16 million in grants to coastal communities.”

“Because of such actions states like Massachusetts and California are in a much better position to leverage money from the federal government than states like North Carolina where it is illegal for state officials to even mention climate change.”

“But the North Shore runs the risk of being overshadowed by Cape Cod’s Barnstable County which is the most vulnerable county in Massachusetts and the third most vulnerable in the entire nation, and by Boston which has so much waterfront infrastructure and savvy political clout.”

“Newburyport will soon release its own long-awaited resiliency report and it is safe to say that those cities who face their problems head-on will be better off than those who continue to have their heads in the sand.”

“But the best thing that Essex County has going for itself is that it has followed Barnstable County’s lead and taken the first steps toward potentially buying its own dredge which will allow it to dredge its own rivers and use local sand to nourish local beaches.”

“From long experience, the North Shore has learned that it is far better to take the lead in shaping its own future than waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to deliver another one of its sluggish responses.”

Copyright © 2019 The Daily News of Newburyport, Edition 8/15/2019

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