Amended Municipal Harbor Plan Will Focus on Eastie

In the future large swaths of East Boston may be inundated with water during a major coastal storm event known as a “one percent chance” flood event. This doomsday event, coupled with an expected 40-inch sea level rise by 2070, makes Eastie one of the most vulnerable Boston neighborhoods prone to the impacts of sea level rise.

In the future large swaths of East Boston may be inundated with water during a major coastal storm event known as a “one percent chance” flood event. This doomsday event, coupled with an expected 40-inch sea level rise by 2070, makes Eastie one of the most vulnerable Boston neighborhoods prone to the impacts of sea level rise.

Already, the city has adopted new zoning to deal with future sea level rise at the bottom of Jeffries Point; the waterfront areas along the Chelsea Creek; the entire low-lying areas in the middle of the neighborhood along the Saratoga, Chelsea and Bennington Street corridors; Suffolk Downs and the Harbor View neighborhood around Constitution Beach.

Taking another step to protect the neighborhood from sea level rise and storm event flooding, Mayor Michelle Wu announced last week she plans to file an amendment to Boston’s Downtown Waterfront District Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) and launch a municipal harbor planning process for Eastie.

Since the approval of the MHP by the Commonwealth in 2018, the City has done further planning, analysis, and engagement including Coastal Resilience Solutions Plan for Downtown Boston and the North End. Wu said the amendment will further refine resiliency guidelines and take into account additional public engagement here in Eastie.

“As a coastal city vulnerable to rising seas and extreme weather, Boston must be a national leader in driving a just transition to a thriving, green economy,” said Mayor Wu. “We have to get this right on the waterfront and truly plan for equitable access and climate resiliency in these critical areas of our city. That’s why we are officially taking on our Downtown Municipal Harbor Plan and the East Boston harbor planning process with these goals guiding our engagement.”

Eastie has long been identified as an ‘environmental justice community’ and is one of their most vulnerable neighborhoods in Boston for near and long term risks of sea level rise and coastal storms.

Wu added that a Green New Deal city must prioritize investments in accessible infrastructure to protect the most flood-vulnerable neighborhoods, such as Eastie.

At recent Climate Ready Boston workshops hosted by the city three Eastie locations have already been studied with solutions that could help protect the neighborhood against future flooding.

For example a drawing of Constitution Beach showed raised pathways and flood walls that would still allow for recreational activities while providing additional protection to the neighborhood. There was also a scenario of adding better sand and reinforced dunes to the neighborhood’s only public beach.

Over at Belle Isle March there were scenarios that ranged from adding raised berms around the pathways to raised roads, pathways and adding a seawall.

Over at Chelsea Creek plans were presented to add raised Berms with ecological restoration as well as adding raised roads with a floodwall.

Both Eastie and Charlestown were chosen for Climate Ready planning 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 must meet the climate crisis with urgent action through maximizing resiliency, equity and accessibility in Boston,” said Chief of Energy, Environment and Open Space Reverend Mariama White-Hammond. “As our city continues to evolve, climate change and racial justice must be at the forefront of our development process. I am grateful to Mayor Wu for her leadership and for centering environmental justice in community planning. I look forward to the Mayor’s vision in enabling a strong planning process in East Boston.”

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has also been leading PLAN: East Boston, a community-driven, neighborhood-wide planning initiative that is creating a framework to predictably shape the future of Eastie.

PLAN: East Boston is focused on expanding housing options that are affordable as well as advancing climate preparedness and promoting a healthy environment, transportation connectivity, and supporting neighborhood economies that meet the needs of local residents and small businesses. This planning process is developing recommendations that will shape the municipal harbor planning process, and codify and implement the community’s desire for a resilient and equitable waterfront.

“A robust, community-driven municipal harbor planning process in East Boston will build upon PLAN: East Boston to create a predictable framework for future development that prioritizes equity and resiliency,” said BPDA Director Brian Golden. “We must work to protect the neighborhood’s residents and small businesses from the impacts of sea level rise and coastal storms.”

President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now Kathy Abbott added that Mayor Wu and Chief White-Hammond recognize that the health of Boston residents and the city’s economy depends on Boston leading the way with community-driven resiliency and municipal harbor planning.

“Boston now has the opportunity to build an equitable and inclusive waterfront combining nature-based resiliency, good green jobs and inclusive public spaces,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.