On Monday, March 26th, Boston City Councilor At-Large and Chair of the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation Michelle Wu held a hearing on flooding in Boston, focusing on strategies and solutions to combat more frequent and more intense flooding across the city due to climate change and sea level rise.

Wu called for the hearing after the record-breaking storm in January that brought the tallest high tide since 1921 and distributed over a foot of water in parts of Downtown, Dorchester, South Boston and East Boston. Since then, Boston has experienced two more intense nor’easters, and all stakeholders are adjusting to our vulnerability to flooding as a coastal New England city with waterfront, rivers and more intense storms.

Flooding at Christopher Columbus Park during nor’easter Riley in March 2018.
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At Monday’s hearing, experts from the Boston Society of Architects, Boston Society of Civil Engineers, UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, and Boston Green Ribbon Commission joined leaders from the Conservation Law Foundation, Harborkeepers, and Boston Harbor Now, along with regulators at the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Environment Department to discuss the legislation, funding, and governance structures needed to protect Boston’s residents and infrastructure for a future that includes frequent flooding. The City of Boston’s Climate Ready Boston initiative predicts that sea levels will rise 10 feet by 2030 and 37 feet by 2050.

Flooding next to the Sail Loft on Atlantic Avenue during the January 4th storm.

“Our goal is to go beyond planning to implementation. Boston needs to make sure all our buildings and infrastructure can withstand more frequent and intense flooding, not just new commercial developments. That will take money and policy.” – Councilor Wu

Bud Ris, a senior advisor to the Green Ribbon Commission, estimated that building infrastructure for flooding resiliency could result in between $1 billion and $2.5 billion dollars of costs over the next decade. Panelists and residents emphasized that the cost of inaction will be far greater than the cost of investing in climate resiliency.

The discussion pushed for increasing priority and urgency for building with resiliency, with potential to update zoning with forward-looking flooding overlay districts, neighborhood- or district-level planning, and funding through new financing tools.

The Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation will continue to host discussions on specific topics that came out of Monday’s hearing.

See more NorthEndWatefront.com coverage on flooding and sea level rise by searching the tag: flooding.

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