Bay State preps for climate-change catastrophe with $52 million investment

Gov. Deval Patrick will unveil a $40 million plan to combat climate change. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
Gov. Deval Patrick will unveil a $40 million plan to combat climate change. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Addressing concerns that an extreme weather catastrophe could pummel the Massachusetts coast beyond recognition, the state plans to invest $52 million in preparing the Bay State for the impacts of global climate change.

Speaking at press conference at the New England Aquarium Tuesday, Governor Deval Patrick said the multi-million dollar statewide grant will assess and address vulnerabilities in public health, transportation, energy and the state’s built environment.

About $40 million will be distributed as grants to help cities and towns install backup power systems using clean technologies to harden energy services at critical sites. An additional $10 million will go toward infrastructure and dam repair along the state’s long, densely populated coastline.

A rise in sea level between 1 and 6 feet would put thousands of lives and nearly a half billion dollars worth of assets at risk in Boston alone.

“The city of Boston and surrounding communities rely on the state to ensure that key infrastructure such as the MBTA and our power grids are prepared for the impacts of climate change, and we have to make sure that developments are constructed with a rising sea level in mind,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.

The plan also calls for MassDOT to assess the vulnerability of its facilities, and adopt a climate adaption plan by 2015. The DCR will have to look at the threat of flooding at historic roadways.

In response to a question about whether he’s getting any pushback from climate change non-believers, Patrick said it’s difficult to live in Massachusetts and not see “extreme changes” in weather.

“It was 50-something (degrees) when I walked the dog this morning at quarter past five,” said Patrick. “It’s January. And I’ve heard of mid-winter thaw, but you’ve got to be kidding me. And last week we had subzero temperatures at or near record levels. It’s happening.”

When asked for comment on the initiative, Environmental League of Massachusetts President George Bachrach said he believes Patrick understands there is an urgency, and is taking an “important step forward.”

“If Superstorm Sandy had traveled a few mile north, Boston and Massachusetts would have been devastated, instead of NYC and New Jersey,” said Bachrach.

“We cannot wait. We need to protect our coastal infrastructure, particularly our transportation systems and the operating systems of our buildings. We must plan ahead to prevent the paralysis of our hospitals, schools and businesses.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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