Massachusetts has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make serious investments in water infrastructure, climate resilience, and outdoor recreation with the American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The Joint Committee on Ways & Means held a hearing on September 10 focused on economic development, including climate and infrastructure. EEA Secretary Theoharides gave her testimony live from a combined sewer overflow discharge site in Lawrence to underscore the urgency of upgrading our water and sewer infrastructure.
She also shouted out watershed associations as critical partners in efficiently deploying federal dollars to communities:
Representative Linda Dean Campbell, Representative Christina Minicucci, the Merrimack River Watershed Council, and the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District all spoke to the longstanding issue of sewage pollution in the Merrimack River and the public health threats it presents.
ENRA Committee Chair Carolyn Dykema, Representatives Lori Ehrlich, Dan Cahill, Peter Capano, Charles River Watershed Association Executive Director Emily Norton, and Mass Water Works Association Executive Director Jen Pederson also spoke in support of investing federal dollars into water infrastructure.
Mass Rivers testified alongside the Appalachian Mountain Club and The Trustees, urging the legislature to invest in water infrastructure, climate resilience, and outdoor recreation, all while making non-profit partners eligible for these funding streams.
What's next? The Joint Committee on Ways and Means will hold a few more hearings on ARPA spending priorities. Contact your state legislators now and tell them to include river priorities in their spending plan!
"Hi, My name is ______ and I'm a constituent from ________. Please include the following priorities in the American Rescue Plan Act spending plan:
Water and sewer infrastructure (Gov. Baker proposes $400 million) – According to a 2017 report by the state auditor, Massachusetts communities need over $17 billion in water infrastructure upgrades. By investing in water infrastructure, especially with green infrastructure approaches, we can create local jobs that will not only support a post-pandemic economic recovery but will also improve water quality.
Green infrastructure & climate resilience (Gov. Baker proposes $300 million) – This funding would go towards the state’s existing Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which provides grants for resilience planning and implementation, but receives many more applications than it is able to fund. It's key that non-profit organizations play a role in implementing the funding.
State park facilities (Gov. Baker proposes $100 million) – Throughout the pandemic, outdoor public spaces were vital as safe places for recreation, respite from the heat, and solace from social stressors. Parks, both large and small, contribute to public health and climate resilience, providing benefits like cleaner air and water, cooler local temperatures, and reduced localized flooding.
Please contact your legislators today and ask them to prioritize these investments!