TEWKSBURY — The adoption of Tewksbury’s Hazard Mitigation Plan is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in order to qualify Tewksbury for state and federal grants to address infrastructure weaknesses in the community.
These vulnerabilities put residents and businesses at risk from a natural disaster and climate change perspective. A key takeaway of the plan is the identification of flooding as the main risk for the town. The 2000 Federal Disaster Mitigation Act requires communities to undergo the HMP process and Tewksbury is in compliance.
The 327-page report has been in the works since 2019. Town staff has been working in conjunction with consulting firm Weston and Sampson to hold community meetings, interview department heads, and produce the report to proactively identify stakeholders, hazards, and develop mitigation plans. The HMP is a complement to the town’s Municipal Vulnerability Plan.
Tewksbury has applied for the Action Grant portion of the MVP program which will provide funding for prioritized items through the Massachusetts office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Action items for 2020-2025 have been identified and are outlined in Chapter 7 of the report.
Town Planner Anna McGinty explained during her presentation at the Dec. 1, 2020 Board of Selectmen meeting that the HMP is a living document, and that in 2025, the town will be required to update the plan and reflect back on the document to see what progress was made and if either new initiatives or a reprioritization of initiatives should be undertaken.
The Plan was approved by FEMA on Jan. 6, 2021 for a five-year period that will expire on Jan. 5, 2026.
The top three priorities as outlined in the plan are development of an action plan for stormwater, with a vulnerability assessment for stormwater flooding and culvert upsizing, elevate roads at strategic locations: Rt 38 and Shawsheen Street, Bridge South Street and other roads leading to 495, and incorporate climate adaption into Main Street reconstruction and coordinate with MassDOT.
According to McGinty, a core team will meet quarterly during the next five years to check the progress of action items, to determine if there are any funding opportunities the town can take advantage of, and evaluate if the goals need to change. In addition, a new tab has been added to the Community Development page on the town website to keep the public informed and make all documents available for review.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick explained during the meeting that by the town having these plans in place, and having projects already identified, applications can be made quickly for FEMA funding. Sadwick cited the recent roadway raising at Shawsheen and Main streets as a project which incorporated FEMA funding and would not have been possible were the town not ready with a plan and then quickly applied.
Also, there is a shift in the program to infrastructure improvement vs. trying to mitigate individual properties. Sadwick mentioned the elevation of East Street at Strongwater Brook as another example of improvements that have been funded through FEMA. Sadwick explained that project prioritization is set through the town’s capital improvement plan.
For more information and to view the entire plan, please visit the Town of Tewksbury’s website: https://www.tewksbury-ma.gov/community-development/pages/hazard-mitigation-climate-resilience-planning