Climate Ready East Boston - Phase II
The 2022 "Coastal Resilience Solutions for East Boston and Charlestown (Phase II)" plan provides neighborhood strategies to address the impacts of coastal flooding and sea-level rise.
The plan seeks to preserve the essential functions and historic character of our waterfronts. It also works to undo the harm of historical planning that unjustly placed certain communities at risk of environmental hazards.
Phase II of the plan includes near- and long-term solutions for Chelsea Creek, Belle Isle Marsh, Orient Heights Rail Yard, Constitution Beach, and Wood Island Marsh.
This Climate Ready plan builds on the first phase of the study in 2017. It is part of a larger citywide effort to address climate change in Boston. With this report, the City has completed coastal resilience plans for Boston’s 47-mile coastline.
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Coastal Resilience Solutions
This report presents coastal resilience solutions in the Phase II of East Boston’s coastline.
Stakeholder EngagementStakeholder Engagement
Community engagement was critical to the creation of this plan. The project team engaged with more than 550 community members through open houses, neighborhood presentations, and surveys. Climate Ready Boston incorporated community feedback into the design and implementation process.
Community Advisory Boards
Climate Ready Boston opened applications for Community Advisory Boards (CAB) for each neighborhood. The 12 members in the East Boston CAB helped lead engagement and shared feedback. They participated in community events, shared information, flyers, and surveys to community members.
The Steering Committee consisted of representatives from City and State agencies. They defined goals and outcomes, discussed feedback, and guided the proposals and next steps. Through this partnership, they ensured practical solutions that align with City and State policy, planning, and investment.
- Share a sense of urgency around the impacts of climate change and how it affects people, places, and services residents’ rely on
- Put in place effective solutions that provide more than one benefit
- Concern about new development and its impact on housing affordability and neighborhood character
- Improve access to the waterfront as a community resource
- Protect homes and essential infrastructure, such as public transportation and evacuation routes
- Restore natural habitats for plants and animals
- Address environmental and climate injustices, burdens, and hazards
Coastline Existing Conditions
The East Boston waterfront consists of a mix of infrastructure. There are hard edges such as bulkheads and rock armoring. These structures support water-dependent industrial uses. There is soft infrastructure like tidal flats, shallow marsh meadows, salt marshes, intertidal shores, coastal banks, and a coastal beach. These support habitat for plants, animals, fish, and birds.
Coastal Flood RiskCoastal Flood Risk
As the average tide rises, low areas along the shoreline that were once dry will be flooded more often.
Storm surge is an increase in the water elevation above the normal everyday tide.
Coastal erosion is the process by which sea-level rise, wave action, and coastal flooding wear down or carry away rocks, soils, and sand along the coast.
East Boston's different elevations impact how and how much the area floods. High tides and storm surge can lead to fringe flooding or flooding through flood pathways.
Impacts low-lying areas along the waterfront, including parks, industrial uses, homes, and businesses. Coastal flooding occurs as water levels rise above the ground elevation.
Impacts low-lying waterfront areas and inland areas. Water enters over a discrete low-lying location on the waterfront, like a bulkhead or roadway. Water then flows inland and creates widespread impacts to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
Coastal flooding impacts depend on the size and severity of the storm that causes the flooding. The timing of when that storm arrives along the coast affects flooding impacts. Extreme storms will happen more often in the future. Without actions to reduce risks, the likelihood of coastal flooding from storms and high tides will increase over time due to sea-level rise.
The design flood elevation (DFE) is defined as the minimum elevation required to protect an area from a set level of coastal flooding. Areas that experience greater coastal flood risk require solutions that are designed to a higher DFE. The DFEs are measured relative to a fixed datum called North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88).
The DFE is 16.0 feet NAVD88 for East Boston. It is important to understand that the elevation of the DFE is not above the ground surface. In most areas along the East Boston waterfront, the lowest-lying locations are currently at approximately 8 to 12 feet (NAVD88). Therefore, coastal resilience solutions need to be designed at 4 to 8 feet above the current ground elevation to reach the DFE of 16 feet (NAVD88) in East Boston.
The coastal resilience approaches used in East Boston draw on an existing toolkit of options developed for other areas of Boston that have been studied through past planning efforts. Design for Equity, Adaptability, and Ecological Restoration are core criteria used in this study to help guide the conceptual design process.
Neighborhood Resilience Strategies
The East Boston study has 6 focus areas. Focus areas are key locations where flood pathways connect and lead to widespread flooding. Resilience solutions in the focus areas depend on each other to successfully reduce long-term coastal flood risk across East Boston.
Focus Area 1: Bennington Street and Belle Isle Marsh
This focus area extends along Bennington Street from Walley Street to the border with the City of Revere. It includes the DCR-owned Belle Isle Marsh Reservation and salt marsh. Extensive flooding could affect access along Bennington Street, the MBTA Blue Line, and surrounding sites. Flood risk here is regional, with flood pathways originating from Belle Isle Marsh, the Atlantic Ocean, and Chelsea Creek connecting to create widespread risk in Boston, Revere, and Winthrop. Resilience solutions in this focus area include flood walls, roadway elevation, open space and ecosystem enhancements, and building-level adaptations.
The proposed near-term approach would raise a part of the Bennington Street right-of-way to form a line of coastal flood protection between the Belle Isle Marsh and upland areas. A 2.5- to 3-foot flood wall on the shoulder of the roadway provides additional flood protection and has the benefit of sheltering pedestrians and cyclists from the flow of traffic. Bennington Street is a designated evacuation route; this strategy helps maintain a dry route for emergency responders and evacuation on Bennington Street.
There is also potential for a sloped berm, living levee, or pile-supported walkway along the marsh next to the raised Bennington Street. This strategy would provide a multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists with views of the marsh. The berm could extend from the raised roadway into the marsh with a gradual slope, softening the edge between marsh and upland urban areas. It would also provide slope for certain types of marsh habitat (high marsh) to migrate upland over time with sea-level rise.
Focus Area 2: Chelsea Creek and Route 1A
This focus area extends along Chelsea Creek from the Chelsea Street Bridge to Boston’s border with the City of Revere. Near-term flood pathways originate from Chelsea Creek, cross Route 1A. Over time, flooding from Chelsea Creek connects with flood pathways from other parts of the study area, causing widespread flooding.
Solutions in this area include near- and long-term options for shoreline elevation and restoration, roadway elevation, and building-level adaptations. These solutions reduce risks to essential transportation routes, including Route 1A, and other parts of the neighborhood.
The preferred near-term option includes a passive flood wall and multi-use pathway within an underutilized rail right-of-way between Route 1A and Chelsea Creek. The floodwall would reach 2 to 4 feet above the existing grade along the water’s edge. The design of the wall could connect with a new multi-use pathway to provide new public access along the shoreline.
The preferred strategy is to construct a landscaped berm at the water’s edge to protect against long-term flood risks. The berm would stretch approximately 2,800 feet long and would be raised to approximately 5 to 7.5 feet above the existing grade. This approach would also create a new waterfront open space with community amenities along Chelsea Creek and advance ecological restoration of the currently degraded wetlands.
Focus Area 3: Constitution Beach
This focus area extends from Bayswater Street to Constitution Beach Reservation into the residential neighborhood on Coleridge Street.
The strategy focuses on reducing near-term flood pathways along Coleridge Street at the eastern entrance to Constitution Beach. It also reduces long-term risk to the neighborhood and essential MBTA Blue Line transportation
Resilience solutions include options for elevated berms and dunes at Constitution Beach, floodwalls in public rights-of-way, and building-level adaptations.
On the western end of the park, the preferred option is to construct a raised berm along the shoreline. The berm would be between open water and upland residences connecting to the Wood Island Bay Edge Park. It would be 3-4 feet above existing grade and the height can be adapted overtime to protect against more severe storms and increased sea-level rise. This option connects to the long-term strategy for Constitution Beach of public access and ecological adaptation along the shoreline.
The preferred strategy combines coastal flood protection with efforts to preserve and enhance public amenities, community benefits, and wildlife habitat at Constitution Beach. The strategy includes an elevated system of constructed dunes, berms, and open space enhancements. The coastal resilience approach would be approximately 5-7 feet above the existing grade.
On the eastern end of Constitution Beach, the elevated dune system would tie into a berm and floodwall. The floodwall must extend along Bayswater Street to the Orient Heights Yacht Club. An optional low floodwall can extend along Bayswater Street to Shawsheen Road to reduce flooding on Bayswater Street during extreme storms.
Focus Area 4: Orient Heights Rail Yard
Fringe flooding affects the Orient Heights Rail Yard, nearby sites, and the MBTA Blue Line in the near-term. The flood pathways from this area will connect with flood pathways from Chelsea Creek and Constitution Beach, resulting in neighborhood-wide flooding.
Solutions include options for flood walls and restoration around the perimeter of the Orient Heights Rail Yard, elevated roadways and pathways along Austin Avenue, and building-level adaptations.
In the near-term, the recommended strategy includes a perimeter flood wall around the north side of the rail yard. The near-term design height would be 3 to 5 feet above existing grade.
In the long-term, the flood wall should be around the full perimeter of the rail yard, forming a line of coastal flood protection. The wall would extend 5 to 7 feet above the existing grade.
The floodwall strategy effectively reduces flood risk while limiting disruptions to rail yard operations and encroachment in the Belle Isle Marsh. The solution could potentially be combined with options for new public access around the rail yard or with wetland resilience approaches for the Belle Isle Marsh.
Focus Area 5: Condor and Chelsea Streets
This focus area extends along Condor Street and Chelsea Street and includes properties that front Chelsea Creek. Fringe flooding affects sites along Condor Street and Chelsea Street in the near and long term. There is a risk to waterfront properties and to the streets that serve waterfront sites. Solutions include options for elevating Condor Street, creating new Harborwalk connections, and building- and site-level adaptations for waterfront industrial properties.
The strategy would construct a new bulkhead and flood wall in combination with a new elevated multi-use Harborwalk along the Condor Street right-of-way. This public access pathway can serve as an extension of and connection to the Condor Street Urban Wild. The floodwall should reach 4-5 feet above the existing elevation.
In the long-term, the design could be combined with ecological restoration in wetland areas within Chelsea Creek to improve habitat and provide more coastal resilience benefits.
In addition, the City recommends building- and site-scale adaptation approaches for water-dependent uses along Chelsea Creek. Building- and site-scale approaches can tailor to each property owner or business’s specific operational and design criteria, based upon site-scale risk assessments.
Focus Area 6: Wood Island Marsh
This focus area includes the Wood Island Marsh and extends from the Wood Island Bay Edge Park to Logan Airport. While coastal flooding is not expected to extend into the neighborhood from Wood Island Marsh in the near-term, flood pathways near Maverick Square currently threaten Logan International Airport and surrounding areas. In the long-term, these flood pathways can connect to flooding at Wood Island Marsh. Solutions in this area include measures in Maverick Square and elevation of the coastal edge between Logan International Airport and Wood Island Marsh.
The proposed coastal resilience strategy for this location includes a raised berm on the existing upland area along Wood Island. This area is vulnerable to flooding during storms. The raised berm should be approximately 5-6 feet above the existing grade. Due to security and safety concerns related to the airport, public access is not recommended along portions of this berm. However, the berm could include opportunities for design improvements and enhanced public access along the Greenway Connector.
This raised berm strategy can combine with ecological adaptation approaches in Wood Island Marsh. Ecological adaptation can improve habitats for wildlife, promote the adaptation to sea-level rise, and provide mitigation for waves and erosion.
Implementation of Climate Ready East Boston
The City of Boston will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders on project progress and design. The City will ensure that outcomes are consistent with community goals and values. Strategic partnerships between public, private, and non-profit stakeholders will play a key role in the implementation of the solutions in East Boston so that we can move Boston one step closer toward creating a resilient, equitable, and accessible waterfront for all.