A trip to a 130-year-old dam in Gloucester has become the latest backdrop for Governor Charlie Baker to push his $ 2.9 billion plan to immediately invest more than half of the remaining dollars in coronavirus relief from the state.
“We are saying here in Massachusetts that climate change is real. We say we believe we can’t wait to do something about it. We say it over and over again, ”the Republican governor said Wednesday, speaking next to the Haskell Pond Dam.
Baker said the legislature hampered for three years his efforts to create a revolving fund to make continued investments in crumbling levees, culverts and more.
Now the governor has said the legislature is slowly moving forward in its latest attempt to invest $ 1.1 billion in environmental and marine infrastructure – as part of its larger plan to immediately invest $ 2.9 billion in the remaining $ 4.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“In the past two months alone, our state has experienced two significant heat waves and a record amount of precipitation, creating significant challenges for our communities,” Baker said, stressing the urgency.
The Baker administration on Wednesday announced more than $ 17.3 million in grants to address failing dams, coastal infrastructure and dikes across the state, which the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs said Kathleen Theoharides, represents only “a fraction” of the needs.
“The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor have a plan that would invest nearly $ 1 billion in federal stimulus funds in this unique and revolutionary opportunity to improve our environment, improve public health and invest in our communities . ” said Theoharide.
Lawmakers have signaled that they are in no rush to distribute the funds, noting that hearings will be held throughout the fall.
Budget watchdogs last week in the first of six spending legislative hearings backed the slow approach of lawmakers.
At a hearing this week, Baker administration officials once again touted the need for swift action, sounding the alarm bells for a looming and potentially devastating deadline ahead as improved unemployment benefits granted people unemployed by the pandemic are expected to expire on Labor Day weekend.
Grants from the EEA Dam and Seawall program this week will support permitting and construction projects in Acton, Ashfield, Braintree, Brockton, Chicopee, Dracut, Dudley, Essex, Gardner, Gloucester, Hull, Ipswich, Leominster, Marshfield, New Bedford, Northborough, Oxford, Peabody, Quincy, Salem, Saugus, Somerset, Stow, Springfield, Wareham, Weymouth, the Wildlands Trust (Kingston) and Worcester.
The 32 new grants bring the total program funding to $ 95 million in grants and loans to address deficient dams, dykes and dykes since the program began in 2013.