State Funding Requests Filed for Alewife Brook

Cambridge, Somerville, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority dump hazardous untreated sewage into the flood-prone Alewife Brook. Our federal and state governments have the authority to stop this dumping of pollution, yet they have allowed it to continue for decades. The brook is owned by the state*, so we need the state to work with us as a partner in funding and implementing solutions to protect and restore the brook. 

That is why we are excited to announce the filing of two new state budget amendments requesting funding for the brook: Dredging and Flood Mitigation Study (#1019) & Update to the Alewife Reservation Master Plan (#1020). Thanks go out to wicked awesome Representatives Dave Rogers, Sean Garballey, & Christine Barber for filing these funding requests. Thanks also to Dave’s fabulous aides Kira Arnott & George Armstrong for their hard work and support.

Alewife Brook Concrete Sewage Channel has accumulated three feet of hazardous CSO sediment. The CSO sediment contains poop, PCBs, PAHs, & heavy metals. Photo courtesy of MWRA

* For clarification: The state owns the land beneath the Alewife Brook. But the water in the brook belongs to the people of the Commonwealth, held in trust by our government.

Alewife Brook Dredging & Flood Mitigation Study

Alewife Brook, which borders Arlington, Cambridge, and Somerville, regularly overflows its banks, inundating residential areas that are home to multiple environmental justice communities. Untreated human and industrial waste discharged into the brook from combined sewer overflows exacerbates the public health threat from flooding. Climate change is making this situation worse. EPA recommends that Alewife Brook be dredged and its concrete channel removed to increase stormwater capacity and decrease surface flooding. Modeling and analysis of current hydraulic conditions is the required first step, urged by flood mitigation and river restoration experts. The hydraulic study will identify the specific actions needed to protect affected communities from sewage-contaminated flooding, providing the information required to secure federal and state funds for implementation of the measures identified. Given the protected wetland landscape, sediment depths, and storm water and sewage inflows, an acceptable study will cost at least $150,000 according to the multiple experts consulted. Funding would go to the Mystic River Watershed Association, which has a long history of work in the area.

Plans for Removal of Alewife Brook Concrete Channel, page 43
MDC 2003 Alewife Master Plan Courtesy Massachusetts State Archives

Update to the Alewife Master Plan

Twenty years ago, the MDC released the Alewife Reservation & Alewife Brook Master Plan, intended to improve the MDC-owned reservation and brook corridor. It envisioned restoring habitat, improving hydrological function, enhancing recreational and educational opportunities, and improving connections to other natural areas. Since then, a greenway and stormwater wetland were constructed, but climate change and widespread development have exacerbated both flooding and combined sewer overflow discharges of sewage into the brook. It is time to update the Master Plan to assess and reprioritize recommended projects based on current conditions. The update should result in Green Stormwater Infrastructure and Indigenous historical signage. Preliminary cost estimates for selected projects will allow DCR and the advocacy groups active in the Alewife area to secure funding to implement the improvements needed to protect and maintain this popular open space for the residents who live near the brook, those who depend on the park for recreation, and the thousands who commute through it daily, including multiple densely populated Environmental Justice Communities.

Plans for Removal of Alewife Brook Concrete Channel, page 42
MDC 2003 Alewife Master Plan Courtesy Massachusetts State Archives

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