For the past three years, residents of Chelsea and East Boston have been working to transform a former Hess Oil tank site into wetlands habitat to support migratory birds and provide local green space and waterfront access. In collaboration with ACE's legal services, Chelsea Creek Action Group (CCAG), The Center for Urban Watershed Renewal and BioEngineering Group, residents developed project goals and habitat designs for the restoration.
However, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is moving forward with plans to attract industrial businesses to the site, after purchasing the eight acre plot three years ago. While the BRA claims this could bring green jobs to the area, they have failed to provide a clear definition of green industry, and have not made their process open or transparent to the community. In addition, the BRA has indicated that new businesses may not be environmentally friendly, since the economic climate has made it difficult for them to attract buyers.
Residents are opposed to any new business that would bring more polluting boat and truck traffic to the already congested area, especially with a preschool next to the site. Barges, industrial ships and commercial vessels already cause miles of vehicle back-up when the Meridian Street Bridge opens for water passage.
We believe that green jobs need to be career-track jobs that provide pathways out of poverty, pay living wages, hire local residents, reverse environmental injustice, contribute to community sustainability and result in environmental benefits. Given that the site is too small to feasibly support businesses like wind turbine production, the BRA's plans are unlikely to result in any green jobs, and instead will destroy the burgeoning wetlands growing on the land.
Funding for wetlands restoration is already available, stemming from a settlement agreement paid by ExxonMobil for dumping nearly 15,000 gallons of diesel into a nearby river. The federal government has dedicated at least $4.6 million of the $6 million fund to local wetlands restoration. Once completed, the wetlands would provide volunteer opportunities, nature tours and public art space. Residents envision a connection with the Condor Street Urban Wild to extend salt marshes and connect public walking paths along Chelsea Creek.
In lieu of this project, the BRA has proposed putting bird habitats on several smaller sites along the Chelsea River. This plan was created without resident input and will not provide additional community access. Disconnected mudflats do not have the environmental benefits of real wetlands, such as wildlife refuge and stormwater filtration. The BRA’s plan has no vision for community stewardship and will not prevent future industrial uses on the land.