Newburyport Receives EPA Help in Saving Plum Island

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Ipswich author William Sargent, in his book “Beach Wars: Ten Thousand Years of Conflict and Change on a Barrier Beach,” said the island will eventually disappear.

Ipswich author William Sargent, in his book “Beach Wars: Ten Thousand Years of Conflict and Change on a Barrier Beach,” said the island will eventually disappear.

Photograph, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Newburyport is getting some help in saving Plum Island. It is among 22 towns and cities nationwide chosen to receive technical assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify approaches they can take to become more resilient to flooding.

Scituate is the only other Massachusetts community to receive EPA assistance, according to a news release. The communities were chosen to receive the technical assistance through EPA’s “Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities” program, which provides assistance on specific tools to help towns and cities with local efforts such as bike share programs and flood resiliency planning. The winners were chosen from 121 communities that applied for assistance by submitting a letter of interest explaining how the technical assistance would help it meet its goals with a particular challenge.

“Located at the mouth of the Merrimack River, we are a coastal community that increasingly experiences severe flooding and coastal erosion during storm events,” said Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday. “We have a vibrant riverfront economy, densely developed barrier beach and significant investment in waterfront infrastructure. Because of this, we are highly concerned about the effect of sea level rise and associated storm surges on both public and private structures and resources. As mayor, it is my goal and responsibility to protect these resources for the future of our community—this technical assistance will provide much needed support for our efforts to do this.”

Newburyport shares the 11-mile-long barrier beach with Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich. Ipswich author William Sargent, in his book “Beach Wars: Ten Thousand Years of Conflict and Change on a Barrier Beach,” said the island will eventually disappear.

“We are thrilled that Newburyport and Scituate will benefit from this program,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. ”Many towns and cities are looking for help to reach their development goals, improve quality of life, and become more economically and environmentally sustainable and this program responds to those needs.

The Building Blocks program uses a variety of tools that not only strengthen a community’s ability to put in place sustainable approaches, but also stimulate discussion about growth and resilience.

Each technical assistance project in a community will involve a team of EPA-led experts and will involve the public in one- to two-day workshops. Each project will also involve direct consultation with relevant decision-makers and will result in a memo outlining options the community can pursue to address ideas generated at the workshop. EPA will conduct these workshops in coordination with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Through the Partnership, EPA, HUD, and DOT work together to coordinate investments in housing, transportation, and environmental protection to get better results for communities and use taxpayer money more efficiently.

EPA invited communities last fall to apply for technical assistance on one or more of the following topics: bikeshare planning; equitable development; infill development for distressed cities; sustainable strategies for small cities and rural areas and flood resilience.

“Many communities are seeking EPA’s assistance to think through how and where they will grow – while protecting the environment and helping members of the community most in need,” said Joel Beauvais, EPA associate administrator for policy. ”Our Building Blocks program brings the technical know-how to help communities overcome the barriers to sustainable growth so they can plan for a healthier, more vibrant future.”

Since 2011, the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program has provided assistance to 130 communities in 41 states. As a result of this assistance, community groups, local governments, and tribal governments across the nation have increased their capacity to successfully implement smart growth and sustainable approaches that protect the environment, improve public health, create jobs, expand economic opportunity, prepare for the effects of climate change, and improve overall quality of life.