During July’s historic storms, communities throughout the Northeast watched as rivers and streams swelled, flowing into our homes and causing catastrophic damage to trails, roads, and farms.
The steep stream gradients and narrow valleys that put the “hill” in “Hilltowns” make our region particularly sensitive to flooding and erosion. Williamsburg, MA and other towns with an industrial past, locate main roads and infrastructure along waterways like the Mill River, magnifying their flood vulnerability as storms become more frequent and intense due to climate change.
Last spring, the town of Williamsburg submitted a funding request to the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program to plan for flood resilience throughout the Upper Mill River watershed. Just weeks after Governor Maura Healey visited Williamsburg to witness July’s flood damage, the state awarded Williamsburg $682,085 in project funding.
“July’s flooding was almost like the river writing a letter of support,” said HLT Board Member Gaby Immerman, who also chairs the Mill River Greenway Committee and is a member of the MVP working group. “It demonstrated why we need to do this work.”
Land trusts are an important partner in flood resiliency planning. Land conservation helps reduce flooding from storms by conserving and restoring natural floodplains and forests that naturally absorb and hold water. As a partner in this project, Hilltown Land Trust will lead community engagement activities to elevate the conversation around flood vulnerability.
Work on this two-year project will begin this fall. In addition to public forums and educational workshops, the project will study hydrologic systems in the watershed. This work will help the community address increased precipitation events and mitigate against flooding vulnerability in the decades to come.