Climate studies for Cape Ann by EPA and Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Work is now underway on both the Office for Urbanization at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) climate studies commissioned by TownGreen2025, and the technical assistance grant agreed to by TownGreen2025 and the four municipalities of Cape Ann with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is the second of a monthly report on this partnership that TownGreen2025 will send out. Our first report was emailed to the TownGreen2025 email list on October 23.  

The vision of the EPA and Harvard Graduate School of Design partnership, created by TownGreen2025 is that, by the summer of 2022, we will have solutions to the threats of a big storm to Cape Ann that will be prioritized by a combination of municipal officials and civic leaders from the four towns of Cape Ann.  These solutions, both regional to Cape Ann, and by individual Cape Ann municipalities, will be facilitated by EPA leadership in two workshops in the late spring of 2022.  The solutions will come from rigorous scenario planning research from a leading research university design school (Harvard GSD), and previous MVP and other studies of each municipality of Cape Ann.  And, finally and importantly, EPA will be connecting these solutions to possible funding sources in multiple agencies of the federal government.  

In recent meetings in late October and November with EPA and GSD leadership, Towngreen20205 representatives learned the following:

  • The Harvard GSD Climate Study has chosen for the ‘Big Storm’ scenario to be a Category 3 hurricane storm passing to the west of Cape Ann that will arrive during an astronomical high tide with a large storm surge of at least 12 feet and winds over 110 mph. The winds will arrive from the east in a counterclockwise motion into our Cape Ann harbors and beaches. The study will describe twenty-seven specific locations, including beaches, marshes, low-income housing, working waterfronts, critical infrastructure and other areas that are particularly vulnerable and have economic, environmental and community value. The GSD research team will create visualizations of the storm itself, as well as the effect of the Big Storm on fourteen of these twenty-seven vulnerable locations, as well as a review of the effects of the storm on Gloucester Harbor, the Great Marsh in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea’s Inner Harbor and Rockport’s Inner Harbor. In the next phase of GSD research, recommendations for armoring the coast, enhancing natural storm buffers, or relocating structures and infrastructure will be reviewed. 
  • EPA and Commonwealth of MA officials are recommending that we consider regional solutions. For example, regional solutions such as improvement of Route 127 sections especially vulnerable to sea level rise and Big Storm damage will be strongly considered.  Individual municipal solutions will still be included, but we will be encouraging regional collaboration wherever it makes sense to all concerned.   
  • Input from a wide variety of stakeholder groups will be sought by EPA to be used by the municipal officials who will make the final priority decisions in two spring EPA workshops. Input from the Cape Ann Climate Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, the leadership of Cape Ann’s non-profit community, as well as a range of citizens and climate-vulnerable populations will be organized by TownGreen for input into the EPA workshops.
  • The Voices of Cape Ann project, an ethnographic study led by Professor Gareth Doherty of GSD, and funded by the four municipalities, will early in 2022, to collect voices from all four Cape Ann communities, with special attention to environment justice communities, that have largely been left out of the dialog on climate to date.

Our December newsletter will detail more of the ongoing work of the TownGreen2025, and our on-going policy work. It is an exciting time for all of us who care deeply for Cape Ann and our natural and built environment.


TownGreen2025 is a local volunteer-led organization that has been promoting climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, including clean energy, since 2015.  TownGreen2025 is sponsored by the non-profit Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation, and is well under way in planning to become an independent 501(c)3 in 2022. For more information, visit the TownGreen2025 website at


Our Corporate Sponsors

Many thanks to Corporate Sponsors:
Geoffrey H. Richon CompanyResonant Energy, and Revision Energy & Action, Inc.

We are looking for financial support for this important study conducted in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Design. There are three levels of corporate sponsorship. If you are interested, please visit our website for more information. We greatly appreciate your gift in any amount.

Our Mission: TownGreen2025 will act as a catalyst in assisting Cape Ann communities in becoming vibrant and inclusive models of sustainability, that are fossil fuel free and are prepared for the impacts of climate change.