As climate change and rising sea levels are causing concern the world over, Boston is mulling a project that could protect the city against possible future flooding.
A recent city report on local climate change risks has city officials considering the construction of a sea wall that would run four miles from Hull to Deer Island to protect Boston Harbor, The Boston Globe reported.
The wall would rise at least 20 feet above low tide waters and would be similar to barriers that exist or are being constructed in New Orleans, the Netherlands and Venice, Italy.
“There’s a sense of urgency about these issues,” environmental chief Austin Blackmon said. “We need to evaluate the feasibility of options like this. If it’s the best solution to protect Boston, we shouldn’t hesitate.”
Such a project could be similar in scope — and price — to Boston’s “Big Dig,” which rerouted Interstate 93 through the city and was the most expensive highway project in the U.S.
Area scientists and engineers received a large research grant recently to look into the possibility of the barrier. Other ideas to protect Boston include building berms around neighborhoods and using canals to divert flood waters.
“If we’re going to build it, we should have something in place by 2050,” said Paul Kirshen, a civil engineer and professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s School for the Environment.
The city report expects sea levels to rise at least 1 1/2 feet higher than they were in 2000 and 3 feet higher by 2070.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, however, released a study last month that estimates cities along the East Coast could see even higher levels than anticipated, up to 8.2 feet by 2100, a rise from previous predictions of 6.6 feet.
“This is likely to be incredibly expensive and ecologically disruptive, but if you look at the flood maps in 80 years, the danger is potentially catastrophic,” David Cash, dean of UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.