(TNS) - To people standing on Nauset Beach in Orleans near the spot where Liam's restaurant stood for many years, until a series of recent storms eroded 60 feet of sandy bluff, the reason for climate change preparedness grants announced Tuesday by state environmental officials was clear. Coastal communities may be the most visible face of climate change's impact.
But Central Massachusetts communities also need to prepare for impacts from extreme weather, even if rising seas aren't lapping at their borders.
Eleven area cities and towns received a total of $315,000, from more than $2 million in state grant funding awarded to 82 towns and cities statewide, through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program. The grants provide communities with technical support, climate change data and planning tools to identify hazards and develop strategies to improve resilience, according to a news release from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The communities are Auburn, Brookfield, Clinton, Harvard, Hudson, Leicester, Marlboro, Sutton, Uxbridge, West Boylston and Worcester.
The MVP grants were announced by Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton during a tour of storm damage on the beaches of outer Cape Cod.
Municipalities that successfully complete the program get an MVP designation that makes them eligible to compete in the state's MVP Action Grant program.
A new website launched to help communities in these efforts, Resilient MA/Climate Clearinghouse, www.resilientma.org, is a gateway for policymakers and the public to find the latest research and tools to plan for climate change.
"Worcester was awarded a $100,000 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant, which will be used to complete a city-wide climate change vulnerability assessment, design an action plan for preparedness activities, and conduct a number of targeted vulnerability assessments of critical sectors with assistance of a qualified consultant. The project will be managed by Energy and Asset Management staff," according to a statement from Luba Zhaurova, sustainability project manager of Worcester's Energy and Asset Management Division.
In a letter of application for the grant, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. wrote that the city is facing more frequent and extreme weather events such as stormwater flooding, aggravated by urban runoff flooding, damaging ice, blizzards, cold air events and heat waves, and drought.
"Our climate change vulnerability will relate to either drought or flooding," said Sutton sustainability director Doreen DeFazio in a phone interview, learning of her town's $15,000 grant.
She said the MVP grant will allow the town to engage the public in "seeing where the community thinks the gaps are" in terms of preparedness. A series of community meetings with emergency management staff, public safety, public works, conservation and planning staff, and the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission will explore local climate issues.
Ms. DeFazio said she also plans to work regionally with Northbridge, Grafton and Millbury, which received MVP grants last year.
Leicester Town Administrator David Genereux said the town's $15,000 award would help it work toward eligibility for larger grants to address dams that are in disrepair.
"It allows us to maintain public safety," he said. "Leicester has a lot of water and a lot of dams. There's a lot of natural occurrences that affect us."
"Obviously there are continuous weather events that hit our region," said Auburn Town Manager Julie Jacobson.
Auburn's $18,000 MVP grant will enable it to hire a consultant to work with a team including multiple municipal departments to analyze how severe weather could affect the town, what strategies would best mitigate potential damage, and identify priority projects for subsequent MVP action grant funding.
"Basically, it's things like looking at your infrastructure," she said.
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