, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 13, 2013

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


Boston does not face the altitudinal problems borne by much of the Netherlands and New Orleans, where substantial areas lie below sea level; however, the sea level is projected to rise faster in Massachusetts Bay than the North Sea, where storms are less violent as well.

Much of Massachusetts has a hilly landscape and solid bedrock beneath, unlike southeastern Florida, which has little high ground to seek safety and sits on porous limestone, as Broward County official Jennifer Jurado described, saying water can rush up the Everglades flooding homes inland on the peninsula state.

The shape and makeup of Boston Harbor provides better protection from a massive storm surge than New York City, which was inundated with water when Super Storm Sandy’s landfall coincided with high tide a little more than a year ago.

“We located our state’s capital in a very, very good harbor. It doesn’t mean that the rest of Massachusetts doesn’t get hammered. So during Sandy while Boston was getting 2-foot waves, Scituate and Gloucester were getting 25-foot waves,” said Wormser.

“No one likes to hear it but the fact of the matter is we’re not going to be able to armor everywhere; we’re not going to be able to drain everywhere. There are going to need to be very real, hard choices about what areas we’re going to need to protect and what areas we are in fact going to have to walk away from,” said Scituate Selectman Richard Murray, who is a Boston University professor of oceanography. He said, “We’re not talking about next Thursday at 3:15 everybody’s going to get out.”

Murray said federal incentives for restrictive zoning should be used and areas should seek “managed retreat” from the sea, as was the case in the period since the Blizzard of 1978 when the roughly 50 homes on Peggotty Beach before the storm dwindled to 15 today, he said.

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