With their municipalities stationed along the coastal front lines of climate change, leaders of 21 cities and towns have formed the Massachusetts Coastal Communities Alliance to share information and resources for addressing rising seas, increasingly routine flooding, and intensifying storms.

Unveiled on World Environment Day, June 5, the alliance aims to provide a platform for information-sharing and peer-learning among local leaders of coastal communities, according to Salem Mayor Dominick Pangallo, who initiated the effort. The communities will coordinate on plans and actions, identify funding and technical assistance opportunities, and discuss best practices, innovative policies, and successful projects, he said.

“As leaders of coastal communities, we are all concerned about the escalating impacts we’re witnessing due to the climate crisis,” Pangallo said. “Through this new alliance, we can further collaborate with one another as we work to protect our communities. … We each bring a powerful and important perspective to the work ahead.”

Pangallo said several factors contributed to the alliance’s launch, including the Healey-Driscoll administration’s creation this past fall of the ResilientCoasts Initiative, federal funding opportunities through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, and the work of Climate Mayors, a national network of more than 750 U.S. mayors dedicated to climate leadership that includes Pangallo and 10 other Massachusetts mayors.

Pangallo said he hopes that a close working relationship will form between the coastal alliance and the ResilientCoasts Initiative. As municipalities look to the initiative for technical assistance and policy guidance, the alliance can be a partner that can explain the challenges faced by communities, as well as municipal innovations and leadership.

Salem now regularly feels the effects of climate change. Earlier this year, Pangallo said, a storm surge destroyed one of the city’s sea walls, and ran over several others.

While the city has a hazard mitigation plan, invests in capital projects, and shares a climate action plan with Beverly (Resilient Together), municipal resources are limited. Much of Salem’s eight square miles contains neighborhoods, public and senior housing, businesses and institutions, historic assets, and public infrastructure that remain in harm’s way, Pangallo said, adding that “critical public facilities are in danger of being rendered inaccessible or inoperable.”

In the announcement about the alliance, a number of local leaders emphasized the need to collaborate around a challenge that’s bigger than any one community.

“These are life safety issues for seacoast communities,” said Swampscott Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. “We need to make investments now to protect our communities and region.”

For Nahant, a 1.1-square-mile peninsula jutting into the ocean on the North Shore, the alliance represents an opportunity to work with other communities facing similar challenges, according to Town Administrator Antonio Barletta.

“There is no larger issue for our community,” Barletta said. “We aren’t just experiencing eroded coastline, we are often prevented from accessing the mainland during storms, which significantly impacts our ability to provide emergency services.”

Provincetown is also surrounded by the sea on three sides, and Town Manager Alex Morse said he hopes the alliance will help him protect his community.

“With significant recurring impacts to residences, businesses and public infrastructure,” Morse said, “we understand the importance of coastal communities working together to further resilience efforts and find sustainable solutions that allow our community, and those like it, to thrive.”

Chelsea was seeking a regional approach to resilience, according to City Manager Fidel Maltez.

“As a coastal community, we live the impacts of rising sea levels, worsening storms, and increased heat island effect, every day,” Maltez said. “As an environmental justice community, many of our residents lack the capacity to bounce back after a climate event.”

Pangallo said he hopes the alliance will also serve as a tool for information sharing for residents and businesses in the communities, “to help private property owners identify strategies, approaches, and resources to assist them in their own resiliency efforts and to help coalesce their feedback to advocate for changes and programs to support them.”

The alliance currently includes chief municipal officials from Beverly, Bourne, Chelsea, Gloucester, Ipswich, Lynn, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Marion, Milton, Nahant, Newburyport, Peabody, Plymouth, Provincetown, Rockport, Salem, Salisbury, Scituate, Swampscott and Wareham. Pangallo has invited leaders from 75 coastal communities to join.

“We’re hoping that in the coming weeks and months we can welcome additional city and town leaders to the group,” Pangallo said.

Written by