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Boston from Nahant

This morning, Northeastern filed an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office requesting review of its proposed addition to the Marine Science Center and replacement of existing seawater intake system. In light of this development, we are sharing the following open letter with the Nahant community.

May 31, 2019

An Open Letter from Northeastern University

We are writing as a follow up to last December’s Board of Selectmen meeting during which Northeastern presented three alternative designs for its proposed addition to the Marine Science Center at East Point.

Beginning in spring 2018, the university engaged in extensive consultation with Nahant citizens, town officials, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders, and we have now settled on a revised project design.

Based in part on community feedback, the revised building design substantially mitigates visual and environmental impacts, and is almost totally obscured by vegetation. The addition totals 55,000 square feet, with 18,000 square feet buried fully underground. Above ground, 19,350 square feet will sit on the western side of Murphy Bunker and 17,650 square feet on the eastern portion.

This design, which we expect to achieve LEED certification, places all mechanical systems underground to mitigate noise and eliminate unsightly ducting, ventilation shafts, and a cooling tower.

Additionally, as we move forward to replace our outdated seawater intake system, we have reduced our initial pumping rate request by 75 percent. We will also install a subsurface system that eliminates seawater discharge onto Bathing Beach and instead discharges much farther out in the cove.

As noted above, we are now ready to begin providing notice to state and local agencies of the university’s intention to seek required regulatory approvals and permits for the project.

Over the last several months, we have had productive discussions with residents and town officials about how we can work cooperatively to advance the project.

To that end, the university is prepared to make a number of tangible commitments to mitigate the impacts of the project. These benefits include:

  • Habitat restoration on East Point, including removing invasive species and installing and maintaining walking and hiking trails;
  • Construction of a lobster hatchery that will ultimately provide 100,000 Stage IV lobsters to the Nahant fishery each year;
  • Annual voluntary contributions and investments to mitigate construction, improve town roads and sewers, and offset operational impacts of the project;
  • A research agenda developed in collaboration with the town that focuses on the challenges Nahant will confront, such as storm surge, flooding, and sea level rise;
  • Tuition scholarships for Nahant residents and town employees attending Northeastern, as well as programmatic support for the Johnson Elementary School; and
  • A summer jobs program for high school students and free educational programs for Town residents.

We look forward to working with town leaders to present these commitments—and share our revised project design—at a town meeting in the near future.

We believe the new design reflects a consensus approach that will safeguard the unique character, beauty, and natural resources of East Point. That has been our goal as a valued partner in Nahant for the last 50 years, and so it will remain going forward.

Irrefutable science shows that threats to coastal communities—locally and around the world—will continue and magnify for the foreseeable future. Developing sustainable solutions to these threats is the mission of the Marine Science Center and Northeastern University more broadly.

Based on input from Nahant residents and town leaders, we have made compromises to address local concerns. These compromises were agreed upon in the spirit of collaboration and being good neighbors.

What we cannot compromise is our commitment to a globally urgent research objective. The fate of coastal communities everywhere—including Nahant—is simply too important to jeopardize. It is our sincere belief that the revised design enables us to carry on the vital work of the Marine Science Center and continue to be a good neighbor.

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