At the Select Board Tonight: Charles River Watershed and Climate Resilience

A view of the Charles River, March 2020

Tonight’s Select Board meeting has a number of controversial topics including the Celebrate Weston logo discussion and a Select Board meeting time change request. Oh, fine, there is good stuff there but sadly the Owl is on soccer carpool tonight so won’t get to witness any unexpected craziness.

One of the more interesting (in the Owl’s laser-sharp view anyway) discussions will be about the Charles River Watershed Association’s Watershed Flood Model Project. That’s a lot of words for what can be summarized as “Weston goes Blub-Blub in about 100 years.” No, not really. But unless you are a climate change denier and also believe the world is flat, you will know that the changing climate means the waters are rising. Build your ark…or learn about what the Weston’s working group of Jordan McCarron (Conservation Administrator), Steve Fogg (Town Engineer), Kortni Wroten (Sustainability Coordinator) and Richard Sweeney (Assistant Town Engineer) have been doing with the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA). That’s the dream team that is presenting tonight at the Select Board at around 7:35 pm where all times set on the agenda have little to do with reality, in the Owl’s experience.

The Owl was pretty excited to read this following extremely well-written “About the Charles River” section on the CRWA website. The Owl used to row on said “dirty water” of the late 80s as bow frau for the Wellesley College Crüe/Iron Maiden rowing team. If you don’t know who Motley Crüe or Iron Maiden is, well, I am so sorry. The 80s were fun, though wildly inappropriate. Back to the Charles River:

“The Charles River, known as the infamous “Dirty Water” from the Standell song and warmly nicknamed “Chuck” by local rowers, collects from a total land area of 308 square miles. Boston marathoners race 26 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, but the Charles River twists and turns on an 80-mile course between the same points. Because of its meandering nature, the river flows through 23 communities, adding many political complexities to watershed management. Some 80 brooks and streams, and several major aquifers, feed the Charles River. Its watershed contains 33 lakes and ponds—most of them manmade. The river drops about 350 feet in its unhurried journey to the sea. 

Historians differ on the name given to the Charles River by the indigenous inhabitants of these lands. Some say it was “Quinobequin” for “meandering one”, others say it was “Mushauwomuk”, for “where there is a big river”, later shortened to “Shawmut.” We humbly recognize the Massachuset, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc Nations, as our work is carried out across their traditional territory, and we acknowledge them as the past, present and future caretakers of this land.” – Charles River Watershed Association

So now that we have defined the watershed, you will enjoy knowing that CWRA and 15 communities* along it have worked together to develop the Charles River Flood Model to identify areas vulnerable to flooding under future climate conditions. The result is an interactive display modeling results that show areas of the upper and middle Charles River watershed which are at risk from projected flooding events. Results also show the impact of possible mitigation strategies.

Using the Flood Model–100 years from now…

Go spend some time with the flood model–in 100 years, not only will Weston’s trees be bigger if we stop cutting them down, but we will have to have Duck Boats to navigate Route 128/I95 near Newton. We already do suffer some flooding along that corridor–there is some fun hydro-planing to be had in the far right northbound lane after major rainstorms. Ask me how I know.

Funding for the project was provided by the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) action grant program which provides support for cities and towns in Massachusetts that have identified climate hazards, assessed vulnerabilities, and developed action plans to improve resilience to climate change and want to implement a priority project identified through the planning process.   

You can learn more and have it be true by watching the Select Board on zoom tonight. Agenda is here, and a screenshot below.

*The following communities participated in this project: Arlington, Dedham, Franklin, Holliston, Medway, Millis, Natick, Needham, Newton, Norfolk, Sherborn, Watertown, Wellesley, Weston and Wrentham*


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