Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

CONTACT: Tom Nolan (617) 722-2240


Last week, for the second time in as many years, Governor Cellucci vetoed a direct appropriation for repairs and study of the Upper Mystic Lakes Dam. While I suppose that Winchester could be content with the $50, 000 it received for treatments to control algae blooms in Winter Pond, as well as the three million dollars included to aid NESWC communities, it is disheartening that the current administration does not understand the vital necessity of putting together a workable drainage solution for the Aberjona-Mystic River watershed. Fortunately, unlike last year, there will be a window of opportunity to lobby House and Senate leadership to push forth an override of Governor Cellucci's misguided and short-sighted veto. Over-riding this veto will be an important step toward realizing the goals and priorities that have been laid out by the Governor's own administrative agencies charged with working on flooding issues.

This week, the Aberjona-Mystic River Hazard Mitigation Working Group, met at Winchester Town hall. This working group has been meeting on a monthly basis in order to develop a plan that will help prevent flooding caused by drainage problems within the watershed. The group, founded under the auspices of the Cellucci administration's Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Department of Environmental Management, has worked on two major issues since its formation: an action plan in case of another emergency, and a prioritized mitigation list to deal with drainage issues in the watershed area. The group has diligently worked to put the finishing touches on the emergency action plan. In the unfortunate event of a future emergency, town and state officials will be far more prepared to deal with flooding and water control issues. Twenty-four hour contact lists have been put in place and public works directors and emergency personnel from neighboring towns have met and discussed possible plans to avert preventable disasters.

Unfortunately, the second part of the working group's efforts have not been as successful. Although a list of priorities has been developed, action on completing these priorities has been stagnant. In fact, the Governor has thwarted legislative efforts on the part of Senator Charles Shannon and myself to provide the funding necessary to change the priorities of the working group from a "wish list" to an action plan.

A nearly unanimous choice for the top of the priority list would be the undertaking of a basin-wide hydrologic and hydraulic study (H&H study). An H&H study is vital, because it allows geographic and water table information to be recorded throughout the entire drainage area of the Aberjona and Mystic Rivers. The information would then be used to illustrate storm flows and drainage movements and through computer modeling, predict areas where modifications need to be made.

Calculating such information for so large an area, is not only time consuming, but extremely expensive. Estimates for conducting the study have ranged all the way up to $500,000. Although this may seem an enormous amount of money, the cost of not undertaking such a detailed analysis could be exponentially more. The latest data we have dates back to the early 1970's, and we all know how drastically our local area has changed since then. Although the collecting of the data will not in itself fix any flooding problems, it will allow a master plan of flooding and drainage corrections to be undertaken in the most efficient and cost-effective method.

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the $850,000 dollars that we convinced the members of the House and Senate to include in a supplementary capital appropriation. This money, earmarked for the study, design and repair of the Upper Mystic Lake Dam, would have been available not only to complete the H&H study, a seemingly necessary part of the study component included within the text of the enabling legislation, but would have also allowed repairs to begin on the dam itself. If you have ever looked closely at the decrepit state of the dam, it is no wonder that its review and repair is the second priority of the working group's priority list. The Governor's veto of this portion of the supplementary capital budget looks suspiciously of political expedience at the cost of informed foresight and prudent investment in preventing future natural disasters caused by flooding and drainage problems.

To remedy this decision, Senator Shannon and I will once again encourage our respective colleagues in the House and Senate to push for an override of this misguided veto. It would be wise if Governor Cellucci spent less time listening to his political handlers and more time listening to the experts that he appointed to his cabinet when it comes to preventing the loss of property and possibly even lives during a flooding emergency. While the 850,000 dollars is certainly not a mere ounce of prevention, it would most definitely provide much more than a pound of cure. During these favorable economic times, it is vital that we put funds into projects that have been drained and left stagnant. What better time to give a dam?!

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