Who Are We?
Initiated by the City of Quincy, The Boston Harbor Regional Storm Surge Working Group is a broad-based association of public and private sector leaders from the 15 cities and towns that flood through Boston Harbor who support an in depth cost benefit feasibility study of a Boston Harbor regional “layered defense” coastal resiliency system. Such a “layered defense” system would consist of a regional sea gate system to prevent storm surge devastation together with a local land based sea wall system designed to protect from sea level rise. The Mission of the Working Group is to a develop regional storm surge system options that will be developed to function in coordination with Boston’s Climate Ready Boston and other Boston Harbor regional municipalities’ sea level rise coastal resiliency infrastructure systems to protect the entire Boston Harbor region from both sea level rise and storm surge.
Membership in the Boston Harbor Storm Surge Working Group is open to all interested parties and stakeholders including municipalities; state, county/federal officials, scientists, engineers, NGOs, coastal residence associations, business leaders, business associations, and other private sector professionals.
Benefits of a Regional Sea Gate System
Protects all 15 Cities and Towns from the devastation of storm surge flooding
Protects harbor islands from erosion and protects all water dependent marine facilities such as ferry terminals, marinas, commercial marine terminals, and coastal air and land transportation infrastructure.
Eliminates mandatory FEMA flood insurance premiums for all coastal residents and federally financed business properties
Ensures coastal resilience social justice by protecting all coastal residents, including all poor and low income residents, with a single, comprehensive system
Protects fragile ecosystems from storm surge inundation and destruction
Boston Harbor Regional
The following fifteen (15) cities and towns flood through Boston Harbor;
Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Hingham, Hull, Malden, Medford, Milton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Weymouth, and Winthrop.
It is clear from the impact of the 2018 Nor’ Easters and from the increasing frequency and severity of extreme storms that coastal flooding is an existential issue for Boston and the entire Boston Harbor metropolitan region. We must act now to address this issue with a comprehensive, long term plan that protects the entire region and takes advantage of current and near term federal funding opportunities.
Figure 1: Boston Flood Risk in 2070 with 3 feet of sea level rise. Image is taken from 'Climate Ready Boston Map Explorer'
The length of the coastal perimeter of Boston Harbor and adjoining waters is approximately 175 miles, some of which is already partially protected from sea level rise and moderate storm surge by seawalls and built facilities of various configurations. As Boston Harbor municipalities prepare for rising sea levels and more frequent and more destructive extreme storms, it is vital that we conduct an in depth feasibility study to evaluate the cost effectiveness and feasibility of the concept of a “layered defense” where a system of land based sea walls would protect local communities from sea level rise and an integrated regional sea gate system would protect all fifteen cities and towns that flood through Boston Harbor from the devastation of storm surge.
Figure 2: Possible Harbor Wide Sea Gate System Designs and locations (slideshow)
Whether the municipalities that flood through Boston Harbor are ultimately protected by a layered defense that includes a sea gate system, will depend on the results of an in depth feasibility study by the Commonwealth and a subsequent expanded study by the US Army Corps of Engineers. If such a system of rising sea level and storm surge protection is not the subject of state and federal feasibility studies, there is a high risk that each city and town will be on its own and that a US Army Corps of Engineers study that would qualify for up to 65% federal funding would not be initiated in time to qualify for development funding through a 2021 federal infrastructure stimulus bill.
A regional “layered defense” coastal resiliency system would virtually eliminate billions of dollars in repetitive and continuing storm surge damages to the 15 cities and towns that flood through Boston Harbor, protect Boston Harbor regional water dependent uses that are left unprotected by land based perimeter systems, allow responsible economic development and community access to the waterfront and meet social justice goals of providing all communities with equal storm surge protection.
In addition, a regional Boston Harbor “layered defense” coastal resiliency system could be designed as a US Army Corps of Engineers “accredited levee” that would save homeowners and business owners billions of dollars by eliminating mandatory flood insurance premiums. An accredited levee system is a system that FEMA has determined to meet the design, data, and documentation requirements of 44CFR 65.10. The area landward of an accredited levee system is shown on the (FIRM) as a moderate-hazard area, labeled Zone X. Flood insurance is NOT MANDATORY in Zone X and therefore would give residents and businesses landward of such a barrier the option to forego flood insurance or to acquire such insurance on a reduced premium basis.
Only through an in depth cost benefit feasibility study can all benefits and related costs be accurately calculated and a determination made if such a layered defense system is economically viable. Should such a study conclude that a Boston Harbor regional coastal resiliency “layered defense” system proves to be an economic option, a broader study would be justified and necessary to include and evaluate how such a system would interface with marine ecosystems, community and residential use of the waterfront, commercial and business use of the waterfront, private recreational boating and fishing use, the complex metro regional multi-modal transportation and water and wastewater treatment systems.