Legislature Approves $3 Billion Environmental Bond Bill

Rep. Tim Whelan secures funding authorizations for local projects...
State Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster)

From the Office of Rep. Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster):

BOSTON – The House of Representatives has approved a comprehensive bond bill containing nearly $3 billion in capital authorizations to support a variety of local and statewide environmental initiatives.

House Bill 4599, An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets and opportunity, provides a five-year blueprint for environmental spending by the state.  State Representative Timothy Whelan R-Brewster supported the bill, which passed the House on a vote of 143-3 on June 13. 

During floor debate, Representative Whelan was successful in securing passage of three amendments that will provide $1.7 million for the DHY (Dennis-Harwich-Yarmouth) Clean Waters Community Partnership, as well as culvert improvements and retaining wall restoration in the Town of Brewster .

“This is just the first step in a very long process, but I’m pleased we were able to get the ball rolling by securing preliminary funding approval for these important projects that will benefit local residents,” said Representative Whelan.  “I also want to thank Representatives Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) and Will Crocker (R-Centerville) for their co-sponsorship and support in getting these amendments passed”. 

House Bill 4599 provides funding to help protect and maintain environmental resources across the state, including rivers and wetlands, as well as critical infrastructure such as dams, seawalls, jetties, and retaining walls.  In addition to outlining new spending proposals, House Bill 4599 also reauthorizes a number of prior spending authorizations that were included in a 2014 environmental bond bill but never moved forward.

The bill includes $420 million in funding for the preservation of state-owned forests, parks, campgrounds and reservations around the Commonwealth.  It also provides $55 million for the Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets Program, which offers technical assistance and construction funding to help municipalities reduce traffic congestion and make local roadways safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.  An amendment adopted during floor debate requires at least one-third of this funding to be set aside for communities where the median household income is below the state average.

In an attempt to address climate change and promote coastal resiliency measures, House Bill 4599 requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) to publish an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan every five years.  The two agencies must also establish frameworks for state agency and municipal vulnerability assessments.

The bill also creates a new Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program within EEA, along with a revolving fund to finance municipal loans.  This program will help cities and towns protect local resources by allowing communities to purchase a conservation restriction on one parcel of land and then sell the development rights to the developer of a second parcel.

Projects for which the $1.7 million in spending authorizations were approved include:

  • $1 million toward planning, design, and engineering costs for the Dennis-Hariwch-Yarmouth Clean Waters Community Partnership 
  • $400,000 for retaining wall restoration at the Herring Run in Brewster
  • $300,000 for wing wall extension to the Freemans Pond Culvert at Paines Creek Beach in the Town of Brewster

The environmental bond bill now moves to the Senate for further action.

 


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