October 22, 2032
Storm waters surge over Amelia Earhart Dam, creating Arlington’s first climate refugees.
This marker is located at 112 Massachusetts Ave in Arlington, Massachusetts.
In the third decade of the 21st century the threat of climate change is inescapable: radical changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels, and increased natural disasters – to name a few – create great uncertainty about the future of our planet and our communities. Although climate change wields great potential to devastate the Greater Boston Area, in 2021 few Arlington residents even considered the thought that they might be forced to relocate due to sea level rise in the next 10 to 20 years; wasn’t this a threat limited to coastal communities?
The Amelia Earhart Dam spans the Mystic River in Everett preventing natural tidal behavior in the river and protecting residents in surrounding towns living close to its banks. The dam was originally built to prevent mud flats and tidal flooding; this allowed developers to build housing in marshlands that had historically been inundated by water twice a day with high tide. As sea levels rise the Dam’s capacity to restrain the river and protect local residents from the harbor’s natural behavior diminishes. The Dam stands at a modest 22.2 feet, a height that storms will soon eclipse on our current extreme-weather trend: already in 2018 the water in the harbor was brought to 21.3 feet by Winter Storm Grayson.
Catastrophic flooding due to a “100 year” storm is just a foretaste of the permanent changes to come unless major investments are made in elevating or rebuilding the Amelia Earhart Dam. A short-term fix is estimated at $45 million, a longer-term fix at $121 million, and rebuilding at $800 million to $1.2 billion. Scientists project that in about 20 years from now water from storm surges will regularly exceed 22 feet, damaging the integrity of the dam leading to the flooding of the Mystic River. Flooding of the Mystic threatens to displace thousands of residents in towns like Medford, Somerville, and Arlington. Rising water will find its way back into repurposed marshland and return the area to what it was before settlement; moreover, water will destroy hundreds of homes and create climate refugees in several towns.
Adding inches to aging infrastructure may provide temporary serenity for residents as sea levels continue to rise. But climate change’s status as a world issue gradually moves to the forefront of more peoples’ minds as years pass. The only way to combat the threat is proactive action, education, and pressure on representatives to bring about long lasting change. This planet would always outlive our inflictions, but can we assume the atonement?
TAKE ACTION NOW!
In addition to speaking out against the secret actions of our government and corporations and demanding efforts towards net zero carbon emissions, you can oppose developments in wetlands or floodplains and find out more about green infrastructure. Green infrastructure offers many solutions to managing floods -- often using natural techniques -- as an alternative to man made barriers. Some of the techniques green infrastructure employs include: restoring wetlands and natural shoreline, creating rain gardens to manage urban flooding, and even building new oyster reefs in coastal waters to absorb some of the energy of storms heading for shore.
Wicked Local/Arlington Advocate, “Rising sea levels, crumbling infrastructure and a natural disaster waiting to happen”