Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning Study for Water Quality Infrastructure in New Bedford, Fairhaven and Acushnet

More information about our solicitation for technical support can be found on our Vulnerability Study RFR page.

The Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), is making available $22,172 in federal funds to hire an environmental service or planning firm to conduct a climate ready estuary assessment and planning effort for the municipalities surrounding New Bedford Harbor. The purpose of this project is to develop an understanding of possible impacts of climate change and potential future responses by the Towns of Acushnet and Fairhaven, and the City of New Bedford. Of specific concern is how future increases of sea level, precipitation, and frequency or intensity of storms may affect public infrastructure related to water quality and habitat protection. The purpose of this Request for Responses is to select a vendor to adequately characterize the potential climate change impacts to certain public infrastructure, and identify and prioritize possible adaptation strategies. This work is part of a national effort by the US Environmental Protection Agency to encourage municipalities to enact long-term strategies to adapt to anticipated climate change impacts.

Goals of the effort

The overall goal of this effort is to improve public and governmental understanding of the vulnerabilities of New Bedford Harbor to future sea level rise and increased precipitation, frequency, and intensity of storms. This will be achieved through maps, meetings, workshops, GIS data, a report, and information posted on this website. The report produced shall outline strategies and actions needed to be implemented by the three participating municipalities. The information and recommendations in the report can guide municipalities to develop and implement climate adaptation strategies. These strategies will inform future changes in regulations, policies, site construction standards, and infrastructure maintenance planning. The specific outlined strategies in the final report can be used by the municipalities to develop grant applications to state and federal agencies. The ultimate goal is that information, strategies and actions will lead to a reduction in long-term vulnerabilities of the public and municipal infrastructure and private properties susceptible to the effects of climate change.


The Buzzards Bay NEP and Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (MA CZM) have jointly conducted a draft evaluation of sea level rise impacts, using LiDAR data, to New Bedford Harbor. The harbor, which is shared by the City of New Bedford and the Towns of Acushnet and Fairhaven, is of interest because it is protected by a hurricane barrier that was constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1960s. The barrier and dikes protect a heavily urbanized and industrial area, an environmental justice community, a nationally important fishing fleet, and a center for the seafood processing industry. About 50% of the Buzzards Bay watershed population lives in these three communities.

The Buzzards Bay NEP has found that the hurricane barrier will potentially have a widespread failure from the 1% storm ("100-year storm event") in conjunction with a 4-foot sea level rise scenario (see map below). Under lesser sea level rise scenarios, and coupled with expected higher annual rainfalls and more intense storms, the wastewater treatment facility, CSO system, and the municipal stormwater networks of each community may be appreciably impacted. These issues, and others related to climate change, need to be enumerated and characterized for the three communities involved. This task will be met primarily through hiring a contractor to assess existing data and information to characterize existing issues and needs relating to climate change impacts (sea level rise, increased precipitation, potential increased storm intensity and frequency) that need to be planned for in the three communities.

Scope of Work and Tasks

To accomplish this work, the contractor will conduct a vulnerability assessment using existing reports, GIS and other data sets including, but not limited to, US Army Corps and FEMA flood zone maps, flooding assessments and studies relating to the New Bedford-Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier, LiDAR coverages, coastal erosion assessments, CZM studies of beach erosion, infrastructure, parcel, and assessor data for the area. The contractor will also incorporate findings of existing studies, including, but not limited to the Buzzards Bay NEP's studies of the expansion of coastal floodplain with sea level rise. Like other Buzzards Bay NEP sea level rise assessments, the contractor will consider conditions associated with 1-, 2-, and 4-foot increases in sea level and a 50-year planning horizon.

The contractor will identify pump stations, CSO discharges, wastewater treatment facilities, pipe elevations and junctions, and other infrastructure that may need to be modified or relocated to ensure their proper operation with either sea level rise or increased stormwater flows. Maps will also be prepared to show where flooding has occurred or stormwater or wastewater infrastructure has failed or overflowed during exceptionally heavy rains. The contractor will use this information to prepare maps identifying the areas currently impacted, and likely to be further impacted by increasing amounts, intensity, or frequency of precipitation or storms. The maps and collected information will be used to illustrate vulnerable areas and infrastructure in order to promote dialog and understanding. The primary target audience of the effort is municipal officials, boards, and legislative bodies. The planning area includes environmental justice populations. For example, the contractor may consider identifying areas of the coast where protection of the shore from sea level rise or coastal erosion may be important, where infrastructure should be elevated, and where publically funded intervention of coastal erosion and inundation are not recommended. The final report could also include recommendations for changes to local bylaws, ordinances, and regulations that could help better plan for and accommodate impacts.

More information about our solicitation for technical support can be found on our Vulnerability Study RFR page.

Expansion of the New Bedford Harbor floodplain with sea level rise.