Facing climate change, cities trade sea walls for parks

For the last hundred years, protecting neighborhoods has often meant relying on sea walls — large, concrete barriers designed to withstand strong waves and rising waters. Beyond not being particularly attractive, they are expensive, can cause erosion and harm marine life.

WASHINGTON — To protect itself from a devastating flood, Boston was considering building a massive sea wall, cutting north to south through nearly four miles of Boston Harbor, taking $11 billion and at least 30 years to build. But a new plan unveiled in October represents a 180-degree turn: Instead of fighting to keep the water out, the city is letting it come in.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a Democrat, announced the city would be scrapping the idea of a sea wall in favor of, among other things, a system of waterfront parks and elevation of some flood-prone areas. The city will add 67 new acres of green space along the water and restore 122 tidal acres.

The idea is to give people access to the shoreline when the weather is nice, but when the parks get flooded — well, it’s not that big of a deal.

As climate change forces cities to grapple with rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms, coastal cities must prepare for a heightened likelihood of flooding, whether tidal flooding from rising sea levels or a hurricane that could dump inches of rain in a short period of time. Read full article.