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Climate Ready East Boston - Phase I

This Climate Ready Boston program identified locations in East Boston that face risks from coastal flooding and sea level rise.

Phase I was completed in 2017 and developed near- and long-term coastal resilience solutions for the Phase I study area. The report included Jeffries Point, Maverick, Central Square, and Lower Eagle Hill.

Phase II was completed in 2022.

Coastal Resilience Solutions

The City worked in partnership with local residents, businesses, and regional partners to find coastal resilience solutions for Jeffries Point, Maverick, Central Square, and Lower Eagle Hill.

final report

Near-Term Actions

Actions

In East Boston, implementation begins with the Marginal Street flood pathway, which is at risk of flooding today, with measures that include:

  • a deployable flood wall in the East Boston Greenway
  • new elevated open spaces at the Greenway entrance and Piers Park II, and
  • adaptations to ongoing development projects.

Implementing all near-term actions would protect over 10,800 residents, at least 250 businesses, and critical infrastructure, such as transportation tunnels, first responder facilities, and the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, up to the 1% annual chance flood with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s), plus 1 foot of freeboard. At this maximum level of protection, from a single event these measures would prevent an estimated $620 million in losses.

Installation of a seven-foot high deployable flood wall across the Greenway under Sumner Street would block the current 1% annual chance flood, with one foot of freeboard. The project would provide immediate protection to:

  • almost 4,300 residents
  • at least 70 businesses, and
  • critical infrastructure for an estimated cost for design and construction of $100,000.

Implementation includes an operational plan for deploying the flood wall in advance of a flood. The East Boston Greenway is owned by the City of Boston and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Image for deployable flood wall at greenway under sumner st
Deployable flood walls, such as the types shown in these renderings of the Greenway under Sumner Street, are installed only when a flood is anticipated. On normal days, they are kept in storage.

Elevating the Greenway entrance (owned by the City) and Piers Park II (owned by Massport), would provide long-term protection against the Marginal Street flood pathway. Community stakeholders at the East Boston Open House were highly supportive of incorporating:

  • waterfront views
  • stormwater gardens
  • social spaces, and
  • wayfinding information in the redesigned Greenway entrance.

All available techniques for prevention of flooding should be considered in the design of Piers Park II.

In the near term, elevating the Greenway entrance and incorporating flood protection in Piers Park II would reinforce and extend the level of protection provided by the Greenway flood wall to 300 additional residents and the fire station in Jeffries Point. Once actions in the Border Street Priority Area, described below, are implemented, an additional 6,200 residents and 180 businesses would be protected up to the 1% annual chance flood with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s), plus 1 foot of freeboard.

East Boston graphic
One version of a new elevated entrance to the East Boston Greenway provides flood protection. There's also space and shade while retaining pedestrian and cycling access between the neighborhood and the Greenway.

Elevating the Harborwalk between Clippership Wharf, Clipper Ship Apartments, and 99 Sumner Street (Hodge Boiler Works), in combination with a deployable flood wall across Lewis Street, would protect residents in these buildings and nearby affordable housing, and the MBTA Maverick Station entrance from flooding damage and disruption.

The estimated cost for design and construction is $500,000 to $900,000 for the berm and less than $150,000 for the deployable flood wall.

Image for Harborwalk between Clippership Wharf and Hodge Boiler Works
The stretch of proposed Harborwalk between Clippership Wharf and Hodge Boiler Works could be elevated as part of planned and ongoing construction. The numbers shown in white ovals indicate the approximate existing ground elevation in feet NAVD88.

To address the Border Street flood pathway, which is at risk of flooding with nine inches of sea level rise (2030s), upfront planning and regulatory measures — including potential changes to designated port areas, the municipal harbor plan, and zoning — may be needed to ensure the integration of public investment and future private waterfront redevelopment into a unified coastal resilience solution.

Image for Border Street priority area
Near-term actions on Border Street in East Boston would create a coastal flood protection system, integrated in a new network of open spaces, which could be extended over time as sea levels rise. The numbers shown in white ovals indicate the approximate existing ground elevation in feet NAVD88.

Long-Term Actions

The next tier of measures would expand the reach of coastal resilience solutions along the study area waterfront. These measures would independently address risks from the 1% annual chance flood with 21 inches of sea level rise (2050s), plus 1 foot of freeboard. With additional flood protection measures in other parts of the neighborhood, their heights would protect up to the 1% annual chance flood with 36 inches of sea level rise (2070s), plus one foot of freeboard.

Elevated parks and pathways at Mario Umana and Shore Plaza would protect critical facilities and vulnerable affordable housing residents. Porzio Park and Massport Harborwalk Park would be elevated to address the flood pathway that could develop through this area with 21 inches of sea level rise (2050s). As existing parks and buildings reach the age where renewal investments are needed, they would incorporate waterfront flood protection measures that tie into the broader system.

Full implementation of near and long-term measures would protect:

  • over 13,200 residents
  • at least 310 businesses, and
  • many critical facilities up to the 1% annual chance flood with 21 inches of sea level rise (2050s), plus one foot of freeboard.

At this maximum level of protection, from a single event these measures would prevent an estimated $1.3 billion in losses.

Image for east boston axon flood entry

The gradations of blue in the map show how, with no intervention, the 1% annual chance flood extent changes as sea levels rise. The arrows show the flood entry points and pathways with current sea levels, 9 inches of sea level rise (2030) and 36 inches of sea level rise (2070).

Image for east boston axon resilience proposal

East Boston long-term climate resilient waterfront strategy. Near-term actions would create a coastal flood protection system integrated in a new network of open spaces. This could be extended over time as sea levels rise.

Implementation Progress

Progress

The City purchased a seven-foot high deployable floodwall to be installed along the Mary Ellen Welsh Greenway (the “Greenway”) under Sumner Street in advance of a storm. This deployable floodwall would block the current 1% annual chance flood and provide immediate protection to almost 4,300 residents, at least 70 businesses, and critical infrastructure. The deployable floodwall serves as an interim measure to prevent existing flood pathways that enter at low-elevations along the East Boston waterfront from extending further into the neighborhood via the Greenway.

Led by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), this project advanced the design from the 2017 report at Lewis Mall and Carlton Wharf, which are two critical near-term flood pathways for the East Boston neighborhood. This project further analyzed existing site conditions and developed implementable design options to protect the East Boston waterfront and community from future sea level rise and coastal storm events. Additionally, the proposed designs will strengthen the connection to the waterfront and protect environmental justice communities in East Boston from flooding.

The City of Boston plans to conduct a design study looking at the potential strategies for addressing coastal resilience along Border Street. The study will evaluate options for outboard and inland flood protection strategies.

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