City efforts to address climate change was the main topic of discussion at a presentation by Rich McGuinness, Deputy Director for Climate Change & Environmental Planning for the Boston Planning & Redevelopment Agency. The meeting was held on April 12, 2018 at the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA).

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McGuinness explained what the planners and architects working with him at the BPDA are implementing in response to Climate Ready Boston, a sobering report predicting continued increases in Boston’s sea levels, extreme precipitation and higher temperatures. The initiative in partnership with the Green Ribbon Commission is to develop resilient solutions to prepare the City of Boston for the impacts of climate change.

For the North End / Waterfront, sea level rise and associated flooding is the primary risk to the neighborhood. The city is using conservative estimates of 9 inches of water level increase in Boston Harbor by 2030; 20 inches by 2050; and 40 inches by 2070. The BPDA is looking how to protect the shoreline by implementing flood defensive mechanisms.

Boston Flood Maps (Click here)

Communicating solutions in response to the harsh realities of Boston’s flood maps, McGuiness emphasized, “there are ways to protect Boston and retrofit our shoreline.” He covered basic options such as elevating buildings to more extensive solutions such as harbor flood barriers. He noted that storm surge barriers will not stop tidal fluctuations where water will enter waterfront neighborhoods at high tides regardless of the barriers.

Boston’s Environmental Department has completed studies on how to retrofit the shoreline in East Boston and is wrapping up a similar one for the Seaport / South Boston Waterfront. Additional reports specific for the North End and Downtown Boston are expected in the coming year.

Funding for climate change infrastructure remains an open question. City officials are counting on support from FEMA and other Federal and State authorities. Infrastructure spending for climate resiliency is only a negligible $2 million of the Mayor’s proposed $3.3 billion FY2019 budget.

The City’s neighborhood shoreline plans are expected to result in regulatory and zoning changes. An updated climate change checklist has been added to large project review, Article 80, at the BPDA. These mechanisms could eventually become mandatory for developers.

On a side note, McGuinness noted that inner harbor ferry plans are in the works to help with the City’s traffic woes. Lovejoy Wharf at North Station is expected to have a ferry to Fan Pier in the coming year, funded by the Seaport businesses. Winthrop is also supporting a ferry that would stop at both Fan Pier and New England Aquarium, potentially connecting the North End / Waterfront to the Seaport area.

Questions for Mr. McGuiness start at 16:00 in the video.


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