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Menino Announces Storm-Readiness Initiatives

BOSTON — Boston officials will spend the next six months reviewing ways to better prepare the city for climate change.

Mayor Thomas Menino on Tuesday announced new initiatives aimed at improving Boston’s readiness for storms like Hurricane Sandy, such as climate change preparedness guidelines for new buildings and better enforcement of flood-proofing standards.

This map shows the impact of 7.5 feet of flooding above mean high tide on the Boston Harbor coastline. (Courtesy The Boston Harbor Association)

This map shows the impact of 7.5 feet of flooding above mean high tide on the Boston Harbor coastline. (The Boston Harbor Association)

The Boston Harbor Association says in a new report that climate change is already putting Boston’s waterfront at risk, and in under 40 years many parts of the city will be vulnerable to flooding.

“A number of sites may be at risk of increased storm flooding after 2050, including Logan Airport, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the Bay State Expo Center site of UMass Boston,” said Vivien Li, president of the Boston Harbor Association, a nonprofit organization that works to keep the harbor accessible.

“About 6 percent of Boston’s land area could have been flooded had Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge hit Boston five and a half hours earlier, when it was high tide,” Li said. Flood waters would have reached City Hall.

Scientists expect the sea level to rise at least 2.5 feet by the end of the century and possibly as much as 6 feet. Menino says Boston needs to be ready for both scenarios.

“I want us to be as prepared as we can be for future storms and the effects of climate change,” Menino said.

Over the next six months the mayor says the Boston Redevelopment Authority will survey buildings, MBTA stations and major roads for flood risk. The city’s Inspectional Services and the Public Health Commission will improve guidelines for flood-proofing and new buildings will be required to be designed for future flooding.

Brian Swett, chief of environment and energy for the city of Boston, says there is a lot private property owners can do today to prepare.

“There are building level changes that folks can make today, that real estate owners can better prepare their specific building assets for flooding,” Swett said. “Infrastructure changes do take a lot of time and money — that has to be part of the consideration for the right solutions. We want to operate at the building scale, the neighborhood scale and at the infrastructure scale.”

The city hopes private businesses will make changes without being forced. Richard Dimino, president of the business group A Better City, says he thinks the business community will respond.

“I think with Sandy just still fresh in our memory, there’s a lot of lessons learned for us in the private sector and the people that own property along coastal areas,” Dimino said. “I think it’s very wise for organizations like ours and our members and other property members to take those lessons learned very seriously.”

The new report suggests the city should start talking about the concept of “living with water,” because by the end of the century regular flooding will be a reality.

“We have to be prepared for this,” said Seth Kaplan, vice president for climate advocacy and policy at the Conservation Law Foundation. “These are the impacts that are baked into the system. We know this is coming, what the report really emphasizes is it’s a matter of time.”

Responding to all these threats depends on a lot of different players. Those include managers of state and federal infrastructure, public transit and the electric grid. The Boston Harbor Association report concludes that neither the private sector nor the public sector alone has the resources to prepare Boston for increased coastal flooding.

This post was updated with the Morning Edition feature version.

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  • Thinkfreeer

    What rising sea levels? How about if we spend money on something real?

    • jefe68

      It would seem that you’re not very well informed about the phenomena of storm surges.

      • Thinkfreeer

        I am a Civil Engineer. I know all about storm surges. I worked in Boston next to Fort Point Channel for years, and have seen storm surges and tidal flooding. I am very familiar with the civil works in the Netherlands to deal with storms surges, and also London. I also know that there have been very few problems with storm surges in Boston, despite the fact that a large city built up in a sea harbor at the outlet of a large river, and situated on mud flats and fill, is a really bad idea. So the history of Boston includes a series of poor judgments in that regard. I also know that some scientists predict sea level rises in the future, which could make flooding worse in Boston. But that is not real. It’s theory. I imagine that there will be calls to spend billions, if not trillions, of dollars on storm surge protection. That will presumably make up for centuries of bad decisions.

        And your knowledge on the topic?

        • jefe68

          If you’re a civil engineer than why make such an inane comment?

          That you seem to discount the effects of global warming is a bit much considering about 90% or more of the scientist in this area agree it’s happening.

          If even 3 to 5 % of Boston was flooded due to 14 foot sea surges that would be a pretty expensive storm in terms of damage.

          Today is the 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978.
          The storm killed 29 people in Massachusetts there were 79-mile-per-hour wind gusts and tides reaching 16 feet above sea level.

          So mister civil engineer you seem to think that doing nothing is the best option, or so it would seem. I’m hard pressed to think that you are a very good engineer. If you were you would at least have some ideas on how to deal with this instead of doing nothing and bitching about the costs of doing something about it. I’m not sure what the answer is, doing nothing seems foolhardy.

          • Thinkfreeer

            Oh, a troll.

          • jefe68

            Really. That’s interesting. So asking you a question after you publicly announce that your a civil engineer is akin to being a troll in your view. As an engineer you do seem to lack imagination or so it would seem. A troll would call you a wanker or a Richard the Third…

          • gorilla monsoon

            Perfect response to Thinkfreeer. Another ignorant know-it-all.

    • gorilla monsoon

      Poor soul. Would you like us to spend money on a real new Casino? Which I actually belive will be good for the state once it’s on the ground.
      So what if we don’t have any more ocean beaches.
      Or maybe we will be able to see the Atlantic from our house in Bedford, MA.

  • electtomdooley.com

    Between the flood of illegal aliens, Obama bankrupting the USA, and the gradual disintegration of American society, our Union may not last until 2100. If we elect patriots, balance the budget, pare down the debt, and secure our borders, we may last that long. Menino should start by ending forced busing.

    • jefe68

      Patriotism is the last vestige of a scoundrel.
      –Samuel Johnson

      It is well thought that what Samuel Johnson meant was false patriotism, of which this comment seems to be the very definition of.

    • http://twitter.com/jhayesboh James Hayes-Bohanan

      Obama has deported far more people than Bush (not that I support this, but he has been tougher on immigration). Immigration is greatly reduced, partly because of tougher enforcement, but mostly because bankers killed our economy, reducing the incentives to cross. And Congress spends money, not the president.

      Meanwhile, the seas really are rising, as people living just a couple hundred miles to our southeast no longer doubt.

    • gorilla monsoon

      You sound just like a true farrrrrrrrrrrr right Repugnant Republican. Watch out, there is a big, fat blizzard on the way as we speak. You could get washed out to sea. And who is a patriot? Surely, you could not even be thinking of GWB, who left ruins behind him. I do not think anyone talks to him other than poor Laura.

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