Read Boston Harbor Now President and CEO Kathy Abbott’s June 8, 2021 testimony on the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed regulations on Municipal Harbor Plans. Boston Harbor Now advocates for an accessible, resilient, and equitable waterfront for all:
“Good evening, and thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on these proposed amendments to the waterways regulations which address the need to clarify the status of previous changes originally put forward in Municipal Harbor Plans across the Commonwealth. I’m Kathy Abbott, and I am the President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now. Our mission is to ensure that our waterfront is climate resilient, accessible and welcoming to all, and helps to create a world-class coastal city, or, in the case of these regulations, excellent coastal cities up and down the Massachusetts waterfront.
The draft regulations seek to clarify the status of the Municipal Harbor plans that have already been adopted and implemented through licensed projects which have provided valuable public benefits. While this is an important goal, there are other important considerations which must be addressed in this process.
As a waterfront advocacy organization with a regional focus, we believe that Municipal Harbor planning is an important tool for municipalities and the public to be able to shape their waterfronts to meet the particular needs of specific places. It allows municipalities to modify, by way of substitutions and amplifications, the dimensional requirements of Chapter 91, the state’s public trust law.
We also emphasize that Chapter 91 has as its primary focus the protection of the public’s rights in current and former tidelands. It is designed to prioritize these public rights over private interests and create an accessible waterfront for everyone. These Municipal Harbor plans, however they are ultimately approved, must provide for equitable access to waterfronts across the Commonwealth and incorporate climate resilience measures that will preserve such access for the future.
While these amendments will provide clarity with respect to the existing Municipal Harbor Plans, they do not provide a clear path forward for approving MHPs in the future. MassDEP must continue to carry out its mandate to protect valuable environmental resources and provide for public access to our shared waterfront. This includes prioritizing equity, access, and resilience in waterfront development. Larger projects should carry with them comparably enlarged public benefits. In all areas where these MHPs apply, the public’s rights in tidelands is paramount. Retroactive approval of the existing Municipal Harbor plans alone will not achieve this result.
We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with MassDEP and other state and city agencies, as well as the private sector, to create the accessible and resilient waterfronts across the Commonwealth that are envisioned by the public trust law.
Thank you for your time and for the opportunity to speak this afternoon.”