With Sea Levels Rising, Boston Harbor May Need Barrier Wall Protections

As sea levels dramatically rise, reports have been spreading on the idea of creating a colossal, multibillion dollar wall in Boston Harbor to protect the Seaport Neighborhood and nearby Boston neighborhoods from coastal flooding damages. Extreme flooding is expected in the coming years and decades, as climate change causes sea levels to rise.

A research team at the University of Boston is researching harbor barriers to protect the city from damaging floods. The smallest barrier proposed, would connect Logan Airport in East Boston with Castle Island in South Boston, thereby safeguarding the city’s inner harbor and downtown from detrimental tidal floods. The wall barrier was also recommended in Boston’s Climate Ready Boston report last year. The report stated that the barrier could potentially work well in Boston’s shallow waters, but it would have to be created in a way that minimizes negative impacts on navigation and the environment. Another one would stretch 3.8 miles from Winthrop to Hull, and cost between $8 billion and $11.8 billion to build.

Another study suggested that Boston embrace the water, and convert streets into canals, similar to Venice. Researches have also suggested solutions taking place on shore, which would cost a fraction of the proposed protective barrier wall cost. These suggest shore-based systems include protective flood walls, on a small smaller scale than the proposed harbor-wide barriers. Other shore-based solutions include changes to zoning laws, and raising of the land using berms. Another great benefit of shore-based solutions would be the much smaller time frame the projects would take to reach completion. Shore-based alternatives could be built in a matter of years, while the proposed harbor-side barrier stretching from Winthrop to Hull, would most likely not reach completion until 2050. If the city of Boston decides to move forward with protective harbor-wide barrier plans, it could potentially take decades of planning and billions of dollars spent before barriers are built.