When state Sen. Bruce Tarr’s bill to create a $17 million dam and seawall fund cleared the Legislature in January, few could have expected the urgent needs that would arise across the region by the second full week of March.
Yet the erosion and devastation to seawalls from Gloucester and Rockport to Manchester and the rest of the North Shore over this past weekend, coming on top of the damage wreaked by the Blizzard of 2013 on the weekend of Feb. 8-9, drives home the point of how imperiled much of our area’s waterfront infrastructure has become after years of shortchanged maintenance and weather’s incessant pounding. And we can only hope that Tarr’s bill calling for a commission to manage and address the state’s still woefully underfunded coastal infrastructure needs gets the urgent treatment it needs on Beacon Hill.
Consider this: Tarr’s bill to include seawall funding in the $17 million pool that was initially geared only toward dam repair means that all of $8.5 million is now available for seawall work. And that’s barely a drop in the bucket statewide when you also consider that Gloucester alone has a projected $5 million repair plan to bolster the Stacy Boulevard seawall surrounding the Blynman Bridge, and considering that Rockport alone has sustained more than $2.5 million in damage from this string of devastating coastal storms just in the last five weeks.
Some — indeed, much — of the North Shore’s damage over the last three storms should qualify for aid from the Federal and Massachusetts Emergency Management agencies. And that should certainly be a relief.
But Tarr’s proposal for a commission seeking solutions to its coastal erosion and seawall issues deserves a spot on the Legislature’s front burner, before it’s too late. Just ask the folks on Plum Island about what happens then.