June 26, 2023
Important Studies Reporting Out
By Gregory T. Federspiel
It continues to be a busy time for various boards, committees, and Town Departments. No summer lull for the work that needs to get done! Three impactful reports will be ready for public distribution in the coming weeks and will require decisions to be made on the next steps.
The Water Resources Task Force has been hard at work for the past 18 months examining our water system and putting together a set of recommendations to help ensure the Town has a robust and high-quality water system in place for decades to come. The Task Force has assembled an impressive amount of information concerning our water system and the challenges we will face going forward. The gathered background information alone makes for a worthwhile effort but the group of citizen volunteers with assistance from staff also put forth 11 recommendations for action steps to take in the coming years to protect our drinking water.
The Task Force created six working groups to delve into a range of topics related to our water system. Groups included usage and demand, supply levels and sources of drinking water, effects of climate change, water quality and contaminants, citizen awareness and engagement, and Town responsibilities, authority and accountability. The findings of these six working groups can be found in the 71 page final report of the Task Force.
A list of 13 key findings and 11 specific recommendations can be found in the report’s Executive Summary. The first recommendation that will be acted on is to re-set the water rates to encourage more conservation of drinking water. The Select Board will officially vote on new rates at a regular meeting in July. Lower end users will see a decrease in their water bills while high end users (especially those who irrigate large areas) will see a significant increase in their bills.
Other recommendations include accelerating the rate of old pipe replacement, installing new meters that provide accurate real-time usage data, increasing education and awareness of water conservation measures, expanding the area of protected lands within the Gravely Pond watershed, and updating our water overlay districts. Addressing PFAS is also a priority, one which is well underway with testing and design work for options to filter out these contaminants which remain below the currently allowed maximum parts per trillion (though the thresholds may be lowered.)
Another study wrapping up is the Vulnerability Action Plan for the Village core area. This study examined the threat rising seas and bigger storms are going to have on the areas in and around the marinas, the inner harbor, and Reed and Masconomo Parks. This study identifies recommended short-, medium- and long-term action steps the Town will want to consider to protect properties and critical public infrastructure. Some short-term measures include elevating generators and other utility service connections, installing “check valves” on drainage pipes to prevent sea water from traveling up these pipes, and waterproofing building openings to better withstand flooding. Longer term, buildings may need to be elevated or relocated. And whether we can work with the MBTA to raise the berm the tracks rest on with a flood gate at the draw bridge will play a large role in how well many of the properties can be protected. Particularly challenging to protect are areas that were once tidelands – e.g.: Masco and Reed Parks, Tappan Street area. Some of these areas might have to be repurposed to accommodate water over the long-term.
A third study looks at the options for restoring the Rotunda at Tuck’s Point. Four basic options have been analyzed – rebuild in the existing footprint, rebuild and place the Rotunda about 35 feet further out toward the channel, relocate the Rotunda to the knoll just north of the pier with a viewing deck replacing the Rotunda, or rebuild in the existing footprint in two phases, raising the height in two stages. The first three options all place the Rotunda about 5 feet higher than it is now to avoid most of the anticipated flooding. The last option would raise the structure 3 feet at first, then 2 more feet later. Rough cost estimates for the options range from $1.7 million to $3.6 million.
All three studies set the stage for future community debate and decision making. A combination of local Town funds with state and/or federal grants will be needed to implement the various options and recommendations. Completed reports will be posted to the Town’s web page and will be the subject of future meetings.