By John Lynds
What will it take to keep coastal flooding from a super storm like Hurricane Sandy from overwhelming East Boston and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage?
Will it take designing new waterfront developments differently? Will it include building a flood wall around the neighborhood? Will we have to elevated our future public spaces? Should we create more natural wetland buffers around the neighborhood to absorb storm surges?
These questions and many others were on the minds of East Bostonians that attended Climate Ready East Boston’s first community workshop at Excel Academy.
Since last year’s Climate Ready Boston’s report, the city’s comprehensive assessment of the climate change risks it will face in the coming decades, residents here have been a little freaked out by the prospects of sea level rise affecting the neighborhood. The report found Eastie has the most land area of all Boston neighborhoods exposed to coastal storms in the coming decades, with exposure concentrated near the Greenway, Maverick Square, and the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels. The report found that between 2030 and 2050, coastal and riverine flood exposure will be concentrated mainly in Eastie, South Boston, Charlestown, and Downtown and represents a significant threat to these neighborhoods and the rest of the city. Fifty percent of Eastie is susceptible to major flooding in the off chance of a huge catastrophic storm.
At a recent workshop residents were afforded the opportunity to not only have many questions answered by weigh in and provide their own ideas for some climate change preparedness.
“The workshop format enabled every participant to engage and gain better understanding of the risk and mitigation options by conversing with the staff, which would be difficult in a presentation,” said Kannan Thiruvengadam, who is working with NOAH and the city on the Climate Ready East Boston initiative. “We are working with the city on both increasing the outreach channels and making adequate translated material available early on, so we can reach more and more residents in the future.”
Mayor Marty Walsh has directed the Climate Ready Boston initiative to focus on Eastie locations that face current and growing risks from coastal flooding and sea level rise.
“We want to find ways to stop flood pathways while offering other community benefits. Aside from safety, solving coastal flooding will improve quality of life and help our local economy grow,” said Thiruvengadam.
NOAH and the city have also been working with Nasser Brahim of Kleinfelder, a consulting firm made up of engineers and scientists that specialize in addressing climate ready infrastructure for its clients. Brahim is the Technical Leader on vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning at Kleinfelder. He helps clients identify and prioritize their climate change risks and adaptation strategies. Brahim was on hand to share his experiences with Kleinfelder and show how climate change strategies have been working in his field.
“I was really impressed by both the turnout of East Boston residents and the quality of the presentation of this critical climate change matter.”—said NOAH Executive Director Phil Giffee. “The City and Kleinfelder did a good job organizing the format and I applaud them both for listening to the residents. Listening and involving is absolutely vital for a good outcome. NOAH will organize more conversations on climate change and climate threats to East Boston in the coming months. We pledge to keep East Boston residents of all backgrounds, as well as civic groups and businesses, informed and involved as together we address this complicated matter.”