BOSTON - The "what ifs" of flooding in Boston have now become reality after last week's nor'easter brought water to Long Wharf, the Seaport and beyond.
Local scientists have known that warming waters are upping our odds of flooding from a so-called 100-year storm, but after last week, it's clear we may not have to wait that long.
A few weeks ago, Boston 25 StormTracker Meteorologist Sarah Wroblewski told us about a multi-billion dollar sea wall running from Winthrop to Hull to protect Boston Harbor. It may have seemed far-fetched, but now the sea wall project is getting new attention.
Dr. Paul Kirshen from UMass Boston and his team are studying if a sea wall in Boston Harbor makes sense, including the potential impacts it could bring to the harbor ecosystem, as well as its impact to the multi-billion dollar shipping industry.
"So one of the options of dealing with this is think about building a barrier. Let's say it would extend from Winthrop all the way around to Hull and this barrier would be designed so that it had very large gates in it, openings in it, they would be closed when we would get a major storm. And if it was closed it obviously would prevent the storm surge and the waves from going in and impacting the Boston Harbor coastal area," said Kirshen.
The huge sea wall would cost billions and it won't go unnoticed.
"One of the gate openings would be 1500 feet. 19:56 wide or long.. that would be the largest gate of its kind in the world," said Kirshen.
But it would be protection billions of dollars of real estate along the Boston Waterfront with places like South Boston the most vulnerable to coastal flooding.
"One of the ways we evaluate this project economically is we look at the damages avoided," said Kirshen.
If the sea wall was accepted and put into place, it would take years to build. By then, flooding waters like we saw with Thursday's storm could become more common.
Scientists predict flooding in 2100 could be a normal occurrence on a sunny day during high tide in Boston Harbor.
"Right now, we're experiencing some coastal flooding with major storms and that's obviously going to increase in the future so between now and 2050, Boston Harbor is going to have to take some activity to protect it from coastal flooding," said Kirshen.
UMass Boston is expected to wrap up the feasibility study of the sea wall barrier in the next four to eight weeks.
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