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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
Relying on an expanding set of projections about the effects of climate change, Boston is rolling out plans to increase the resiliency of city neighborhoods and infrastructure.
Last month, Mayor Martin Walsh announced a number of projects to protect Boston from rising sea levels, and the city rolled out new plans for the Seaport and South Boston. The mayor is pledging to dedicate 10 percent of the city’s capital budget to climate resiliency projects.
That effort began in earnest in the fall of 2015, when the city began working on its climate adaptation plan that wrapped up a year later. Then, in October 2017, the city released its first neighborhood-level plans for East Boston and Charlestown.
Both plans take into account protection of critical facilities for transportation, public safety and water infrastructure.
The East Boston plan aims to protect more than 13,200 residents, 310-plus businesses, and critical facilities, while preventing an estimated $1.3 billion in damage from a single flood event.
Charlestown’s plan will protect approximately 1,000 residents, 100-plus businesses, and seek to prevent $229 million in losses caused by anticipated flooding.
Mia Mansfield, program manager for the city’s Climate Ready Boston initiative, said the climate adaptation plan pulled together projections for sea-level rise, precipitation, and heat from scientific efforts from across the region, along with the Boston Harbor Flood Risk Model developed for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The city used the data to conduct a vulnerability assessment, taking population into account, to identify needed investments and actions.
Nasser Brahim, an engineer with Kleinfelder, developed the East Boston and Charlestown plans based on those strategies. Brahim said that cities and towns looking to develop resiliency plans need to begin with research to understand their most vulnerable areas and prioritize projects, both short-term and long-term.
“Cities obviously have a lot of different priorities, like any organization,” he said. “There are decision-making cycles and political cycles, so we need to make sure there’s an important action that can be taken today that also builds momentum or link to a longer term strategy.”
Both Mansfield and Nasser said the climate change data available to cities and towns has evolved significantly over the past five years, making it easier to municipalities to access the research needed to make informed plans.
The state is currently working on expanding the Boston Harbor flood risk model, which includes coastal projects from Hull up to Gloucester, to the entire Massachusetts coastline, Nasser said, and should be released next year.
Mansfield said neighboring cities and towns can share information, use current federal flood maps, and simply take into account where flooding occurs in a city or town today and how it impacts city facilities and operations to prioritizing resiliency efforts.
The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program launched by the state last year is a valuable resource for planning grants and information, Nasser added. For coastal cities, the Office of Coastal Zone Management offers the same resources.