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As The Tide Turns: Climate Ready Boston Presents Update To Wharf District Council

Alisha Pegan, Climate Ready Boston Coordinator, along with Joe Christo, BPDA’s Resilience and Waterfront Planner, delivered a project update to members of the Wharf District Council (WDC) earlier this week.

The project goals have assembled around four themes: Engagement, Short-Term Solutions, Long-Term Solutions, and Implementation. The engagement piece is pivotal for matters of this magnitude as the city prepares for the impacts of climate change.

As seen in this flood map, sea levels are expected to rise by 9″ by 2030 and by 40″ by 2070. Current flooding is already a concern, as seen in recent winter storms. Being able to effectively manage the imminent concerns of today with the troubling projections of tomorrow is an integral theme. Tides are also expected to increase in the future, as seen below.

WDC leaders Susanne Lavoie and Chris Fincham were joined in engaging Climate Ready Boston by John Larivee of Rowes Wharf and Rob Caridad from the Chiofaro Company. Larivee asked for clarification on the ownership conditions, seen below, as to whether it was current and/or projected – the response being that it’s a current map. A collective point raised was the origin of the modeling/research. Climate Ready Boston cited The Woods Hole Group.

Marc Margulies, President of the WDC, stressed that a lot of time and hard work has been expended on ensuring the proper establishment of a property protection line. Lavoie asked what, if anything, the MBTA has done within the last six months to address flooding concerns at Aquarium Station. Climate Ready Boston could not comment on any specific plans in the works, to their knowledge.

The feasibility and viability of the flooding prevention vision options, which are part of the Flood Protection Toolkit, were discussed. One component of the toolkit referred to as “The Spine” would utilize resiliency strategies such as elevating roads, sections of The Harborwalk and bulkheads, while the other two deal with making use of public spaces as well as incorporating outboard elements with fill, living breakwaters, coastal marshes and floating wetlands.

“The Spine” fostered a lot of debate between Margulies, Climate Ready Boston and Bud Ris from Boston Harbor Now, specifically on whether this should even be considered. While Climate Ready Boston and others suggest having all options in the mix, it was the opinion of Margulies and other council members that the raised road option isn’t suitable at all. Many on the council worried that this strategy would leave those east of the elevation (on the seaward side) stranded, others opposed consider it patently illogical, while those in favor describe it as being a potential measure of last resort.

Jason Purdy, a resident of Harbor Towers, posed a question regarding an alternate strategy. Citing a plan known as the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel undertaken in Tokyo Japan, Purdy asked if something similar could be achieved here in Boston. The response was that such initiatives would have to involve Boston Water & Sewer Commission and that further study would be needed.

Due to Climate Ready Boston’s successful outreach initiatives, council members suggested exploring further collaboration for efficiency and transparency. Climate Ready Boston agreed. Judy, a WDC member, wondered what Climate Ready Boston and other involved parties could do for those property owners living in smaller properties with lower populations and budgetary variability compared to their larger neighbors.

Maria Lanza, representing the Mayor’s Office Of Neighborhood Services, added that the City can provide informational resources and this checklist/resiliency guideline intelligence was confirmed by Christo. Many additional dialogues were held on the status of bulkheads, defining measurements, and in general seeking to come to a consensus on how best to approach the interrelated topics of storm preparedness, climate impact, climate resiliency, and preventative solutions to keep the Commonwealth safe and dry.

Access the full presentation here.

This project update was part of the Wharf District Council’s monthly meeting agenda. Members met at the Norman Leventhal Center on 30 Rowes Wharf. The meeting ran from 5-7 p.m. and the next meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.