Westport eyes grant for improvements at The Let

Climate Resilience Committee, in first meeting, agrees to work with Buzzards Bay Coalition on grant proposal

By Ted Hayes
Posted 1/26/22

Members of Westport's newly formed Climate Resilience Committee wasted no time during their first-ever meeting last Tuesday, spelling out what they want to accomplish, electing officers and voting to …

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Westport eyes grant for improvements at The Let

Climate Resilience Committee, in first meeting, agrees to work with Buzzards Bay Coalition on grant proposal

Posted

Members of Westport's newly formed Climate Resilience Committee wasted no time during their first-ever meeting last Tuesday, spelling out what they want to accomplish, electing officers and voting to enter into an agreement with the Buzzards Bay Commission to study sewer systems and groundwater in The Let area, and what can be done to address them.

The committee was created last summer by the Westport Select Board, following up on a recommendation from the East Beach Corridor Vulnerability Study that concluded earlier that Spring. The committee has many charges, all centered on identifying and responding to the many ways that climate change will impact the Town of Westport over the next three decades — including sea level rise, beach erosion, coastal flooding, saltmarsh loss, a potential breach of The Let, and many other factors.

Made up of nearly a dozen and a half residents, the committee voted Tuesday to appoint planning board member John Bullard as chairman and Westport Select Board chairwoman Shana Shufelt as the committee's vice chair.

The Let

Apart from organizational matters and discussion on how often the committee should meet and tackle the many issues it faces, members got to the heart of the matter almost immediately, voting unanimously to work with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to seek a state grant to study The Let and its ground and wastewater issues.

The area in question is a group of 54 homes and the Bayside Restaurant at the end of Horseneck Road and First, Second and Third streets. Those homes were moved to the area after the state took Horseneck Beach back in the 1950s.

The area has fallen prey to failed septic systems, flooding, nitrogen runoff and other environmental issues that fall under the committee's charge.

Last year, the coalition and town received a grant from the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program that helped draft a 30 percent design plan and rough cost estimates of a wastewater system for The Let.

Mark Rasmussen, the coalition's president and a member of the committee, said applying for and receiving a second grant this year would allow for a full, 100 percent design for the system, which the initial study indicated would cost about $2.5 million.

"The grant would just move this to full design," he said.

"The neighbors are very interested in having the project expanded ... to add stormwater flooding and treatment; to take a look at options like drinking water service, and then lastly to look at whether there's an opportunity (to install) any underground utilities" in the area.

"There's lots of infrastructure money coming" through the state MVP program, Rasmussen said. "This one wants to see a project which fits climate change goals holistically. And I actually don't know may other spots in Westport where you can frame the whole problem around climate change. So there's an opportunity here; MVP is uniquely suited for this neighborhood."

The second grant proposal would ask for funds to complete a 100 percent design on a system, and also 100 percent designs for stormwater issues as well, and a feasibility study.

Since Westport is without a town planner, Rasmussen volunteered the coalition's services in drafting the grant proposal, the first part of which was due last Friday and which will be due in full in March.

Though members ultimately voted unanimously to approve working together to apply for the grant, at least one member said he wonders about the project's ultimate costs, and whether it is economically feasible.

"I understand The Let's a priority, but I just think basically that $2.5 million is a lot of money to be spending on private property," said Sean Leach, the chairman of the Beach Committee and a member of the climate resilience committee.

"I agree," said planning board chairman James Whitin, also a member of the climate group.

"But the possibility of getting a $2.5 million grant from (the state) to do this is a real possibility."

"The grant is not pursuing $2.5 million for construction," added Robert Daylor, a committee member and the vice chairman of the planning board. "This is to advance the design ... to really prove out these costs."

Following the committee's unanimous decision, the select board also voted unanimously later that day (with member Brian Valcourt absent) to support the grant request and cooperative agreement between the town and the coalition.

"If we could get a grant to come up with a 100 percent plan ... then we could apply for other grants to pay for ... much of the installation of this," select board member Richard Brewer said.

Meet the climate resilience committee

Members of the Climate Resilience Committee include:

* Chairman John Bullard, Westport Planning Board member

* Vice chairwoman Shana Shufelt, chairwoman of the Westport Select Board

* Jim Whitin, planning board chairman

* Ray Raposa, agricultural commission chairman

* Mike Sullivan, long-time town volunteer and representative from the Westport River Watershed Alliance

* Amy Messier, assistant town planner

* Deborah Weaver, executive director of the Westport River Watershed Alliance

* Mark Rasmussen, a Dartmouth resident who heads the Buzzards Bay Coalition

* Raymond Elias, zoning board representative

* Robert Daylor, planning board vice chairman

* Ross Moran, executive director of the Westport Land Conservation Trust

* Constance Gee, zoning board representative

* Sean Leach, chairman of the beach committee

* David Sprogis, an engineer and long-time summer resident

 

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