Boston’s sea-level rise will require a ‘Big Dig level’ solution, city leaders say – The Boston Globe

A woman watches as waves crash into Fan Pier along the Seaport district in Boston, MA, Mar. 3, 2018.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff File A Thursday hearing focused on how to defend Boston’s coastline against rising seas, but practical solutions remain unclear. By Catherine Carlock Globe Staff,Updated September 23, 2022, 4:43 p.m.

Boston officials on Thursday stressed the urgent need to prepare the city’s waterfront for the reality of climate change, urging for a broad, holistic approachto defenses from rising sea levels, rather than a parcel-by-parcel strategy that relies on individual development projects.

As part of that effort, the Wu administrationintends to hire an infrastructure planner who can target available federal funding, the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, the city’s chief of environment, energy, and open spaces, said at a Thursday hearing of the Boston City Council.

“For all of the planning we’ve done, the real focus now is on implementation,” White-Hammond said. “We don’t have a lot of time.”

A recent federal report forecast that, by 2050, sea levels in Boston will be 16 inches higher than they wereat the start of the century.

Preparing for this will cost billions, new Chief Planner Arthur Jemison said. The city has historically relied on real estate developers and individual property owners to implement flood-protection and resiliency measures within their own property lines, he said, but has thus far been missing a comprehensive, coordinated climate change effort.

“Some of us are focused on programming waterfronts. Others of us are focused on sea walls and infrastructure,” he said. “The most imminent threat to all of us is the absence of the dollars … (and) coordination required to actually implement the changes.”

Jemison touted Boston’s strong revenue base and AAA credit rating and “unprecedented state and federal dollars available to attack these efforts.” In his former role as a top official at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development,Jemison’s team allocated $80 billion to communities recovering from disasters — almost all of which had a direct relationship to climate change.

Jemison, who is also director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, said the BPDA would be developing more climate resilience plans across the city. He highlighted recommendations in the Resilient Boston Harbor report, issued in 2019, as an example of the type of infrastructure work that could be done to both protect the city from a coastal storm and increase public space along the waterfront.

…(read more).

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