State Sends In 'MVPs' To Help Towns With Climate Change Response

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Erosion

State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton (with sunglasses) was at Nauset Beach in Orleans last week to help towns get “MVP” assistance in assessing the impacts of climate change and preparing resiliency plans.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

ORLEANS With an MVP, the Celtics might have been playing for the NBA championship this week. Last week, the state provided funding to Chatham and Orleans to add a most valuable player to their efforts to assess climate change vulnerability and create resiliency plans.

With erosion-stressed Nauset Beach as a backdrop, state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton announced almost $2.2 million in statewide grants under the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. Initial funding ($15,000 to Chatham and $25,000 to Orleans) will allow those towns to add consultant services to a “community-based workshop process to identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths; develop adaptation actions; and prioritize next steps,” according to a state press release.

“The funds provided by the state are for the town to hire an MVP-certified consultant trained by the state and qualified to do this work,” Orleans Planning and Community Development Director George Meservey said in an interview. “They'll work with the town, presumably like a planning team.”

The state, according to the release, intends that each town's team will be led “by an experienced project coordinator from the town with a core team of town staff and volunteers representing town planning departments, emergency managers, conservation commissioners, economic councils, the business community and other key stakeholders,” working with the MVP consultants. The latter will provide “a standardized toolkit for assessing vulnerability and developing strategies, and newly developed climate projections and data from the Northeast Climate Science Center at UMass Amherst.”

“We'll look at all the areas we identify in which we are vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters or significant storm events,” Meservey said. “We'll prioritize the improvements we want to make so we can mitigate some effects in advance.”

When that's done, towns can be designated as MVP program communities, positioning them to compete for MVP Action Grants. The state has set aside $3 million for those grants.

That money could come in handy as Orleans updates its hazard mitigation plan for the first time in a decade. “We did let it lapse,” Meservey said. “We will update that plan. A lot of the vulnerabilities are the same as they were in 2004: low areas with bad drainage.”

Director of Health and Natural Resources Dr. Robert Duncanson will lead Chatham's team. Stakeholders will be solicited from existing organizations, such as the chamber of commerce, Friends of Pleasant Bay, Chatham Alliance for Preservation and Conservation, Chatham Conservation Foundation, waterways committee, and other town departments and committees, he said.

Chatham, too, will be looking to use the work being done as part of this program to position itself to qualify for federal and state money.

“A number of grant programs will require MVP designation going forward so completing this process will position the town to be able to request and receive those grants,” Duncanson wrote in an email. The town is eying a study of the eastern shoreline and outer beaches in the wake of this past winter's storms to begin developing erosion and shoreline change contingency plans. Funding sources under consideration for a possible $250,000 study include the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office's Coastal Resilience Grant program or an article at a fall town meeting.

Other Cape towns that received funding include Barnstable ($35,000), Bourne ($18,000), Brewster ($20,000), Eastham ($25,000), Provincetown ($27,500), Wellfleet and Truro ($15,000), and Yarmouth ($24,500).

“The Baker-Polito administration and Secretary Beaton are the real 'MVPs,'” state Rep. Sarah Peake said in the release, “helping our communities through this grant program to better prepare for climate change and future storm events.”