The New York Times published an article this September affirming what scientists have been theorizing for years—the United States’ coastline is facing real and immediate trouble as the sea level continues to rise. While severe storms have left communities destroyed across the country, the article reveals an unsettling, less publicized truth: cities on the coast are also experiencing flooding on days completely clear of storms. The chart featured in the Times shows the dramatic increase in “sunny day” flooding all along the eastern seaboard. Annapolis, MD experienced fewer than 10 days of nuisance flooding in 1950, and in the past five years has experienced closer to 40 days of nuisance flooding each year, and more than 60 in 2011. Tidal flooding in Wilmington, NC has been some of the worst in the country, affecting the city 80 days in 2015.
Working with municipalities on the coast, we’ve seen firsthand the type of damage flooding can cause. Developing hazard mitigation measures, working with various regional and local departments to coordinate resiliency efforts, and hardening infrastructure have been highly prioritized by a number of our clients over the past several years. One of the communities we’ve worked with on these measures is Salem, MA, who has experienced chronic flooding, at least partially due to the effects of climate change.
Funding for stronger infrastructure
In 2013, we assisted Salem with applying for a $4.6 million FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant to upgrade stormwater drainage infrastructure. We worked with the city on developing a flood mitigation program that included constructing a 10,000 gallons-per-minute pumping station and a new 4 million gallon underground stormwater storage facility. Salem has also created a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan that prioritizes risks throughout the city as well as the impacts of climate change most likely to significantly affect Salem. One of the vulnerable components of the city’s infrastructure identified in this plan were ineffective sea walls, many of which are deteriorating structurally.
As the result of our site-civil, structural, and funding teams’ recent work with Salem, the city was awarded a $143,625 Coastal Protection Grant on November 2nd. The grant will fund 75% of the $200,000 cost to design and permit the repair of an approximately 60-year-old section of a concrete seawall located at the eastern boundary of Forest River Park in Salem. The grant was provided by the Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Fund, which provided over $10 million for seven dam repair projects, five dam removal projects, and eight coastal protection reconstruction projects. Salem’s seawall restoration efforts are part of the larger Canal Street Flood Mitigation Project, geared toward reducing flooding in a high-traffic area of town.
Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs for Massachusetts’ Baker-Polito Administration, Matthew Beaton, said last Wednesday, “The funds awarded from the Dam and Seawall Program will allow municipalities to take crucial measures to both prepare for extreme weather scenarios, as well as improve the resiliency of vital infrastructure.” In addition to the larger goals of flood prevention in the Canal Street area, a primary entry point into the city and the Salem State University campus, strengthening the seawall will provide benefits to the Forest River Park by correcting flood issues at the ball field, allowing more frequent pond flushing, and preventing the existing seawall from overtopping from flooding on the landward side.
Assisting the city in obtaining this funding is an important win as we continue to work with them to prevent major flood impacts across the community. Moving forward, we will be providing permitting and design services associated with the seawall repair, strengthening Salem’s resiliency in the face of the serious climate change impacts we’re seeing all along the Atlantic coast.