Town to apply for coastal resilience grant

Jul 16, 2018

The town will apply for a $93,660 grant to assess the threats from climate change to Marion's wastewater pumping infrastructure, but it will require the town to come up with at least 25 percent of the project’s total cost.

The price tag for the study is $125,750, Marion Town Planner Gil Hilario told Selectmen at the board’s Tuesday, July 10, board meeting. Hilario told Selectmen the town will have to come up with its part of the grant -- $32,090 – to move forward with the study.

About 40 percent of the town is located in the federally designated flood plain, and the town planner noted that much of the town’s infrastructure is located near the coastline or on other low-lying land and is vulnerable to coastal flooding, rising sea levels, and increased precipitation.

“A detailed vulnerability assessment and analysis is needed to inform town officials of what actions to take and prepare for the future,” Hilario said.

He said the proposed project will evaluate the town’s fundamental wastewater pumping station and infrastructure with projected sea level rise and storm surge. The project would first require collecting data at each of the town’s eight wastewater pumping stations, and also at the grinder pumps, and combine it with the town Department of Public Works’ asset management program for future climate resiliency planning.

Secondly, the project will complete a vulnerability study on the eight critical pumping stations and the grinder pumps, focusing on the ones most vulnerable to climate change and flooding. In its third and final stage, the project will recommend improvements and climate adaptation strategies for each pumping station. The town planner said will ultimately lead the town to become more resilient to current and future coastal hazards.

Hilario said this grant is part of the Town Climate Resiliency Initiative in the 2017 Marion Master Plan, and that the work will build upon a preliminary vulnerability assessment as part of the Master Plan and ongoing Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program. He said public outreach and community involvement in the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness process for this project and the MyCoast platform is a key part of this grant initiative.

Marion Planning Board held a May 23, 2018 MVP workshop to help identify vulnerable areas, and develop and prioritize climate resilient and hazard mitigation actions. The need to upgrade the town’s pumping stations was identified at the May 23, workshop, Hilario said.

Hilario noted that as part of the town’s Master Plan development, six geographic areas, including properties, businesses and roadways were examined by the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD). Using GIS data, it examined infrastructure at “high risk” and “moderate risk” areas, the data provided a preliminary understanding of what places, buildings and infrastructure may be impacted by coastal flooding and sea level rise.

“Much of the town is at risk and all of the town’s pumping stations are located in these areas,” Hilario said.

He said the town Master Plan preliminary vulnerability helped the community realize the possibility of sea level rise, storm surge, and intense precipitation, which led to the discussion on the impact to pumping stations, including loss of power, loss of pumping capacity, and the inundation of electrical and pumping equipment.

“Indirectly, inundation of the pumping stations will impact the operation of the town’s wastewater treatment plant,” Hilario said. “Recent storms in Marion have caused a high rate of power loss than in neighboring communities. An inoperable pumping station poses a major public health risk to the community and raises the possibility of contamination to Buzzards Bay and the rivers nearby.”

Marion Selectman Chairman Norm Hills noted that the town had lost power several times over the past year due to major weather events, including for a week over this past winter. Selectmen agreed it was a good course to take and will move forward with the matter.