Friday, June 1, 2018
Seven years ago an EF3 Tornado tore through the heart of our City, and while it was a devastating event, it has turned into an opportunity for Springfield to show how resilient we are as a community.
Since then, Springfield has bounced back with a vengeance, working collaboratively with residents, stakeholders and community based organizations to re-build, re-develop, grow, and thrive, with a focus on increasing the resilience of our low income and vulnerable residents through a portfolio of interventions, each of which was designed to provide environmental, economic, and social benefits to our urban core riverfront neighborhoods.
In addition to the booming economic development facilitated by the City over these last seven years, the City government, both elected officials and professional staff, have worked effectively to bring millions of dollars to Springfield to focus on making the City more resilient in the face of future disasters. Shortly after the tornado, the City moved forward with considerable state, federal, public and private investment launching the ReBuild Springfield process which coordinated millions of dollars of investment into the City.
From 2015-2016, the City's Disaster Recovery team successfully competed for $17 million dollars for additional targeted rebuilding work, specifically related to climate action, and the need to rebuild better in recognition of our changing climate. April was the 400th month in a row with record hot temperatures.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and the team that produced Springfield's Strong, Healthy & Just: Climate Action & Resilience plan have committed to a goal of 80% reductions in GHG emissions by 2050. To assure transparency and shared commitment to this goal on the part of residents, who generate over 1/3 of the emissions, as well as businesses and other organizations, the City has also committed to a series of interim goals: 25% reductions by 2025, 40% by 2030, and 60% by 2040.
Highlights of the City's ongoing resilience work towards achieving this goal and implementation of the plan include:
- Energy Efficiency improvements in School buildings: Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management Department continues to make use of Springfield's Green Communities designation to apply for funding to replace inefficient heating and cooling systems in the city schools/municipal buildings and to make energy efficiency improvements. Over $35.0 million has been invested in energy upgrades resulting in a 22% reduction in energy usage.
- Planting Trees: The city was awarded $850,000 dollars four weeks after the tornado by the Department of Energy and Conservation Services and with the assistance of Federal Forest Service, Regreen Springfield and People’s Bank to plant new trees throughout the tornado zone. The goal of the project was to increase energy efficiency by shading homes and to replace the lost tree canopy. This past year, $1.5 million dollars was awarded once again, to increase the tree canopy in the McKnight, Old Hill, and Upper Hill neighborhoods and another 60 trees as part of the Downtown Refresh Project. A healthy tree canopy brings efficiency and environmental benefits to cities, such as reductions in storm water runoff, improved air quality, increase in property values and tax receipts, and a safer and healthier environment for residents.
- Baystate Hospital-Combined heat and power plant: Construction has been completed on the CHHP which provides non-grid energy sources to the hospital. It will provide an annual reduction of greenhouse gasses by 13,513 and will allow the hospital to operate for up to 30 days uninterrupted in the event of power loss event.
- Dam Upgrades: $2.4 million dollars, with $1 million in private investment from Mass Mutual to make safety upgrades to the Van Horn Dam which had been classified as ‘high hazard’.
- No-Cost Job Training for unemployed or underemployed City of Springfield Residents: The City has partnered with multiple organizations including the Sheet Metal Works Union, Regional Employment Board and Tech Foundry to provide job training to eligible Springfield residents.
- Healthy Homes program: Approximately $5 million in housing rehabilitation funds available to property owners of 1-4 unit residential properties in Memorial Square and Six Corners for home rehabilitation, abatement of lead, removal of asthma triggers, and energy improvement.
- Valley Bike and the Metro center Trolley: Office of Planning and Economic Development is launching a regional e-bike pedal assist bike-share program with 14 stations and 140 bikes in Springfield, and pedestrian way-finding and adding bike lanes and making sure crosswalks are visible and sidewalks are safe and walkable. MGM and the city will launch the Metro Center trolley in August.
- ReGreen Springfield Citizen Science/Tree Stewart Program: Educating and engaging the community in the impacts of climate change and engaging volunteers to enhance City’s capacity to plant and care for public trees, collect data about changing environmental conditions in the City and to monitor aquatic health of public bodies of water.
- Green Streets Design Guide and Energy Efficiency Pavement Specifications: will integrate nature-based solutions into the city's roads and streets.
- Community Resilience Building and Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness: Stakeholder planning and resident engagement to advance integration of the city's Climate Action & Resilience Plan with the Hazard Mitigation plan and identify priority resilience projects. The City has also applied for MVP implementation funding to complete a tree inventory and to update storm water management practices to reduce and eliminate the discharge of contaminated storm water into the City’s streams, ponds and waterbodies, especially in neighborhoods where our most vulnerable populations live.
- Watershops Pond Hydro-electric feasibility study: to explore the possibility of restoration of hydropower downstream of Watershops Pond Dam on City owned land with the potential to generate 707,000 kWh during an average year.
- Improving emergency preparedness communication with vulnerable residents: Health and Human Services is conducting extensive outreach to underserved and underrepresented community members to improve the public health of Springfield and support the City in climate change preparedness and the city launched the www.resilientspringfield.org website and has applied for funding to train residents as Resilience Ambassadors.
- Park projects city wide: The city through funding from CDBG, Commonwealths PARC Grant Program and the Federal Land and Water Grant Program has invested over $18.0 m dollars increasing and improving access to open space opportunities. Projects include additional tree plantings, green infrastructure improvements, environmental awareness and overall improved recreational spaces for both passive and active recreation.
"We are very proud of the work we are doing, in collaboration with our residents, businesses and advocacy groups, to make Springfield stronger, healthier and more just." said Mayor Sarno.
In the Strong Healthy & Just: Springfield's Climate Action & Resilience plan, 57 specific action strategies are highlighted. In one year of implementation, 32 or 56% of the actions have been completed, started, or the city has sought funding for implementation. For a detailed overview of the city's resilience work, go to https://www.springfield-ma.gov/planning/index.php?id=cdbg-dr