NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 13, 2013

At harbor's edge, experts discuss impacts of rising seas

BOSTON — If sea level rise projections become reality and high tides a century from now resemble what today are major floods, the Aquarium Blue Line Station would likely be underwater while across the harbor the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital will be better prepared to weather frequent incursions of harbor water, according to Boston Harbor Association executive director Julie Wormser.

“By mid-century, every year the T’s going to have to deal with a foot and a half of seawater. By the end of the century it’s dealing more with 5 feet of seawater,” said Wormser, who said the Aquarium Station would need to be moved. She said, “People have mentioned doing giant sea dams across our Boston Harbor Islands. I don’t know what that would do for all the money we spent on the cleanup, for one, but it also would sap all of our money to do anything else. What do you do with the water? You can’t keep back the tide?”

Officials from San Francisco, Louisiana and the Netherlands traveled to the JFK Library yesterday, carrying with them schematics and animations that depicted flooding scenarios that in the case of the Netherlands nearly swallowed the whole country, and discussed ways to reroute floodwaters and build large, protective sandbars.

In the Netherlands, parkland has been built to serve as temporary retaining ponds, or polders, during major floods; rivers have been reconfigured; and a city provided beach parking and reinforced the sand dunes at the same time by constructing an underground garage by the shore, said Royal Dutch Embassy Senior Economist Dale Morris.

“They get it. They get it. We don’t. It’s as simple as that,” said William Golden, executive director of the new National Institute for Coastal and Harbor Infrastructure, who said the impending sea level rise will be “the biggest business opportunity for engineering firms in this country.” He said, “The Dutch are coming over here and they’re eating your lunch.”

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