There’s certainly no assurance that the Legislature’s creation of a new revolving $17 million Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Fund will be the answer to the prayers of Gloucester city officials who have had to hold off for years the kind of repairs needed for the wall at Stacy Boulevard around the Blynman canal.
But it seems clear that Gloucester should be first up when it comes time to evaluating projects that this new fund can address. And it’s encouraging to hear Mayor Carolyn Kirk indicate that indeed the city already has “permits in hand and the engineering designs ready to go” for what’s been projected as a $5 million project.
Other communities — including neighboring Rockport, where officials have tentatively pushed back taking any steps on a plan to beef up the Long Beach seawall as well — can also cite an urgency for this type of infrastructure work, especially when it comes to aging dams. But the conditions at the Stacy Boulevard seawall should catch the attention and priority of any official who inspects the site, and the fact that the city is poised to kick in roughly $500,000 for the project should show state officials that this is an investment in Gloucester’s safety and its future.
Most should remember that the Blynman Bridge had to be shut down in 2007 for emergency repairs of an unstable east seawall and bridge tenders’ house. And over the last six years, the city’s DPW had to stack boulders in three specific areas of the wall to simply keep it in place.
In the meantime, the Boulevard pavement near the bridge has been roped off because it is now slanted above the crumbling seawall, and inspections have shown that erosion has worn away much of the mud used as a sealant a century ago, leaving gaps in the seawall’s support system — and much if it, beneath a public walkway and a roadway that serves as one of just two access routes to and from most of Gloucester and Rockport.
No one should expect the state to be in a rush to dole out this money. Yet, in deciding how to put this new fund to use, state officials should place urgency high on the priority list.
That should put Gloucester’s project at the top of the list as well.