East Boston and Charlestown Implement Plans to Combat Coastal Flooding

A boat gently rocks in the harbor near Piers Park on Nov. 15 in East Boston, Mass. Piers Park is the location of one of the future sustainability efforts to combat coastal flooding described in the Climate Resilience Solutions report. Photo by Sarah Rappaport/ BU News Service

Sarah Rappaport
BU News Service

The City of Boston and the Climate Ready Boston initiative released their Coastal Resilience Solutions for East Boston and Charlestown report this October. The report outlined risks associated with coastal flooding in Boston and illustrated steps the city was taking in preparation for potential flood events.

The report was supported by a steering committee of dozens of supporters and stakeholders including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Barr Foundation.

Nasser Brahim, project manager and technical lead at Kleinfelder, a consulting firm behind the report, said he believes it is imperative for Boston to begin preparing for negative effects related to climate change.

“We know that with sea level rise and climate change, these events are becoming more frequent and more likely to happen over time,” Brahim said. “If we don’t plan for it, we’ll just be like every other city that’s getting nailed with these storms, having to figure out a way to dig ourselves out of the mess afterwards.”

According to the reports, East Boston and Charlestown are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Both are prone to a one-percent-annual-chance flood along the coast. While the name “one-percent-annual-chance flood” may make such an event seem unlikely, it actually translates to a 26 percent chance of a flood over a thirty year period. The specific at-risk sites were determined using three different sea rise scenarios at an additional nine inches, 21 inches and 36 inches.

The solutions report follows on the heels of the original report identifying vulnerable areas Climate Ready Boston published last year. Mia G. Mansfield, program manager of Climate Ready Boston, said the city moved quickly to develop management plans.

“We went into implementation to better understand in these neighborhoods what are the risks and what are the solutions that can work and that can provide benefits to the neighborhood,” Mansfield said.

Raising entrances to parks, enhancing amenities at those parks and making them accessible to all community members are among the efforts detailed in the reports. Other plans include installing deployable flood walls to known flood pathways, such as at the entrance of the East Boston Greenway at the Marginal Street waterfront, and creating natural wetland buffer areas.

East Boston and Charlestown neighborhood residents were invited to events and open houses where they were able to aid in the design plans to ensure the solutions addressed both short-term and long-term solutions.

Gabriela Boscio, Climate Program Manager at the non-profit stakeholder Neighborhood for Affordable Housing, said she believes that open houses and walking tours of the site areas aided in community engagement.

“People enjoyed seeing the visual implement,” Boscio said. “Overall, East Boston residents have showed a lot of interest in the subject.”

Brahim also said he was encouraged by the turnout and hoped that the sessions were indicative of the community continuing to support initiatives related to combating climate change.

“So many people who had either come to one of our open houses or had seen us at one of their other community events had followed the process through,” Brahim said. “To me, that is a good sign that people are staying engaged and hopefully can be champions going forward.”

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