Environment Department Gives Update on Climate Ready East Boston

On Monday, Boston Environment Department Project Manager Catherine McCandless gave an update on the work being done to develop a thorough plan for future protection and recovery from coastal flooding in East Boston. 

“I’m here tonight to go over the Climate Ready East Boston and Charlestown project that we’ve been working on,” said McCandless. “We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in East Boston–we’re seeing extreme temperatures, which we mostly think of as rising heat but we’re also seeing more extreme cold fronts as well. We’re also seeing more extensive precipitation, sea level rise, and coastal storms. Those three things coupled together are leading to more storm water flooding inland in areas that you wouldn’t think would be subject to flooding because they’re going away from the coast.”

McCandless said the Climate Ready East Boston project is specifically looking at coastal solutions along the waterfront in Boston and building a more resilient Boston.

“A more resilient Boston is not just about coastal flooding, it’s really part of a broader strategy across the city,” she said. “Working with community groups, the private sector really and really everybody taking an all hands on deck sort of approach to protecting us from all the impacts of climate change–both along the shore and more inland.”

McCandless said the city is trying to find opportunities to take the impacts of climate change and create a lot of benefits whether it’s through job creation, creating healthier buildings, healthier neighborhoods, more open space, greater access to the waterfront, or managing stormwater inland. 

“The Climate Ready Boston (and East Boston) was first launched in 2016 and in 2017 the city conducted the first phase of Climate Ready Boston in East Boston and Charlestown,” said McCandless. 

Eastie and Charlestown were chosen because segments of these two communities are already prone to flooding and in 50 years, if climate change continues, will experience more coastal and inland flooding as sea levels rise. 

“We’re expecting to see about 4 inches of sea level rise by 2070,” she said. “So in the next 50 years, if we don’t intervene by adapting to climate change impacts and coordinating climate change impacts by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions there will be more flood entry points into the neighborhoods. These low lying areas in the neighborhood are more susceptible to flooding, both during extreme weather events, such as hurricanes or rain events, but also gradual sea level rise. Some of these entry points are issues now whereas others will become an issue over time.”

McCandless said the city’s aim with the project is to look at the temporal nature of climate change impacts between now and 2070 and what the flooding scenarios will look like over time in different situations.

“We’re trying to really develop a menu of options that can be looked at in each location along the waterfront and think about ways that we can adapt that will be beneficial for that specific area,” she said. “Whether it’s a berm park or setback walkways we really are just trying to create this list of options, with input from the community, and decide what will be the best approach.”

Currently the Climate Ready East Boston team is working on a wetland resilience assessment at Belle Isle Marsh and thinking of ways that the city can restore that landscape and use it as a way to mitigate flooding.  “Over time we’ve been collecting community input and had our first Community Advisory Board meeting in January and a second one in March,” said McCandless. “We also had our first open house at the end of April and we hope to have a second open house at the end of June or in early July. So really this project is going to culminate in a report that we anticipate releasing in late summer or early fall, which will have sort of an implementation roadmap with all of the different options that we’re looking at as well as the path forward that we intend to take to make East Boston more resilient to sea level rise.”

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