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Boston climate change effects the target of major new public-private effort

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Mayor Marty Walsh says city will spend big to battle future flooding—and it wants the private sector’s help

Flooding in East Boston in early March 2018.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Mayor Marty Walsh on October 17 announced a public-private initiative to protect 47 miles of Boston coastline from the effects of climate—in particular rising sea levels.

Called “Resilient Boston Harbor,” the plan would enlist private developers and other companies as well as nonprofit stakeholders and City Hall in developing and implementing strategies to prevent and to mitigate flooding.

In announcing the plan at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce forum, Walsh did not hold back.

“Our downtown financial engines are at stake,” he said. “Hundreds of small businesses are at stake. Many thousands of homes are at stake. Billions of dollars of public and private investment, and property, and infrastructure are at stake.”

To drive home his point, per the Boston Business Journal’s Catherine Carlock, Walsh showed a map of Boston Harbor in 2070 with a 40-inch rise in sea level from a major storm—enough to connect Dorchester Bay and Fort Point Channel, and therefore flood everything in between.

Right now, “Resilient Boston Harbor” is more initiative than plan, with the strategizing just starting. Preliminary ideas include creating 67 acres of open space along the Boston waterfront; elevating transportation corridors, including Day Boulevard along Carson Beach; reworking waterfront parks to make them more resilient; and requiring flood-mitigating measures in new buildings.

Walsh says the city will spend 10 percent—or about $16 million—of its capital budget yearly on such resiliency efforts.

Meanwhile, though, the march of climate change’s effects on cities continues unabated. Storms earlier this year flooded much of Boston’s downtown coastline, including T stations, parking lots, and streets.

What’d you think? Like with housing costs, is it already too late?