It may be a smallish project on a road in a semi-rural stretch of the North Shore, but the work being planned for Argilla Road in Ipswich is a perfect example of the foresight and teamwork needed to adapt to climate change.
For the past several years, Argilla Road, which straddles the Great Salt Marsh, has become increasingly susceptible to flooding. And a climate change vulnerability assessment conducted in 2017 confirmed what everyone essentially already knew: It's only going to get worse.
"The assessment found that sometime after 2030, the road would become flooded on a daily basis," said Tom O'Shea, director of coast and natural resources for the Trustees, which owns nearby Crane Beach. "By 2070, it would basically be impassable."
Fifty years may seem like a long time, but O'Shea framed the issue in stark terms for reporter Paul Leighton:
"The time to act is now," he said.
He's correct, and it is encouraging to see the Trustees and the town of Ipswich work to address the issues on Argilla Road before they reached crisis level, and not just because the road is the only way to and from Crane Beach. It also serves as an example to other communities -- climate change is already here, and ignoring the problems it creates won't make them go away.
In Ipswich, that means a two-year, $1.5 million project to raise about a half mile of road by a foot-and-a-half and widen a culvert beneath it to let the marsh waters ebb and flow with the tide without causing a flood.
The Argilla project is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of projects that will need to be undertaken across the North Shore and in the Merrimack Valley over the next few years. Better to address them now, when the cost runs in the millions, than in 10, 20 or 50 years, when the price tag will likely be in the tens of millions.
The wise approach taken in Ipswich is one that should be adopted everywhere.