BOSTON (CBS) – Climate Change and the gradual creep of sea level rise has coastal communities wondering what life will be like in the future. In the past 100 years sea level has only risen about one foot but more changes are likely to come.
Paul Kirshen, an environmental engineering professor, says we need to start making a plan now so when it is time to act we will be ready. “Sea level is projected to increase even more over the next couple of decades mainly because of melting of ice on land in the northern hemisphere. So there is going to be a ramp up of sea level rise.”
The Boston Harbor association has spotted numerous communities around Boston which will see more flooding in the coming decades based on the current rate of sea level rise. Since much of the city is barely above sea level, towns like Cambridge, East Boston, Charlestown, the Back Bay and the South End will be vulnerable.
WBZ-TV’s Joe Joyce reports
“This map shows is the fact with high tide, with storm surge and sea level rise, areas of our region that are not flooded at present become water front properties in extreme events.” says Vivian Li, Director of the Boston Harbor Association
There is still is plenty of uncertainty when it comes to sea level rise over the next 100 years. Estimates range from a few inches to several feet. The fear is with these rising seas will come more severe storm surges and more frequent flooding.
This has engineers, architects, and city managers looking for ways on to accommodate a world with more water. Plans for the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown is one example.
“We asked ourselves where is sea level was going to be in 2100. The answer is a little bit too close so we jacked the building up an extra foot just to be safe.” says Hubert Murray. Patients rooms are not on the first floor. Also electrical and heating units have been moved to the top floor instead of the basement.
To become more flood proof, Architect Antonio DiMambro has proposed linking the Boston Harbor Islands together by making a colossal Sea Belt made with 15 foot barrier gates at the cost of 3 to 5 Billion dollars.
“Our idea is a very simple one. Connect these three islands with gateways so when you have a big surge and rising sea level, the inside of the harbor is protected and the water is kept out.”
This idea has been stalled for financial and environmental concerns. Also neighboring communities like Chelsea, Everett, Dorchester, Beverly, Quincy, Marblehead would not be protected despite the investment to protect a small but vital area.
While the conversation for action has some gained momentum, so far it has just been that, conversation.
Most agree the effort & initial cost to adapt, protect, and accommodate will be most effective to reducing and preventing damage from sea level rise. For doing nothing now may prove to be much more costly in the future.