Planning and Public Engagement to Facilitate Stormwater Management
Communities across the nation are vulnerable to climate change impacts like increased flooding, sea level rise, and urban heat island effect. Underlying stressors, like access to resources and aging infrastructure, in environmental justice neighborhoods are often considered multipliers of climate risk. Climate change, unless appropriately planned for, will likely impact environmental communities disproportionately.
Lynn, Massachusetts is a coastal community just north of Boston and over 80% of residents live in an environmental justice Census Block. Over 50% of households speak a language other than English at home and the median household income is 32% lower than the state average. The poverty rate is 70% higher than the rest of the state. Strategic planning and equitable representation is critical to ensuring that Lynn residents have a voice in how to become a more resilient community. Working with the City and local partners, Weston & Sampson developed and implemented an equitable outreach strategy to reach traditionally underrepresented people in the community to gain input on a resilient stormwater management capital improvement plan to reduce flooding and urban heat island effect.
In the middle of the project, the COVID-19 pandemic constrained in-person meetings, but Weston & Sampson quickly adapted to lead an online public engagement program. At the forefront was a short informational video that allowed residents to watch on their own time and could be aired at other board and committee meetings. This was complemented by an online survey to collect input for the planning process. Both were promoted through social media and in coordination with local groups to ensure open and transparent two-way communication. We also assisted the City to create a website in Spanish.
Our investigation identified over 230 potential green infrastructure (GI) components grouped into 23 individual projects. Of those, we identified 10 projects that created the greatest impact in terms of flood risk reduction and reduced urban heat island effects. These projects also prioritized water quality improvements and the creation of better, healthier public spaces. Finally, integrating nature-based GI solutions into existing drainage system will create more resilient infrastructure that can accommodate future climate, social, and environmental challenges.