A View from the Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 19, 1999
CONTACT: Tom Nolan (617) 722-2240
ONE WORD FOR GOVERNOR'S VETO: DAM!!!!
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
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?!