The Wharf District Council recently released its “District Protection and Resiliency Plan.”  My immediate reaction is just a quiet OMG regarding the size of the task.  Of course, that’s no excuse for inaction and I found the plan to be quite compelling. 

The Wharf District runs from Christopher Columbus Park to the Congress Street bridge.  Its landward boundary is basically Congress Street.  In its simplest form, the Plan calls for “a continuously elevated harbor’s edge.”  However, it would be a mistake to think of this plan as just raising coastal elevations.  It’s much more than that and, despite the repeated emphasis on the conceptual nature of the plan and the amount of work necessary before plans can be finalized, it’s the level of detail that makes the plan persuasive.

In short, a lot of thought went into this Plan; it’s rather amazing that the Council and its technical team were able to weave a number of potentially disparate goals and projects into a coherent whole.  The plan addresses storm surges, but it also addresses dry weather high tides.  It would create new stormwater storage.  It would address below-ground flood pathways.  It would create new open space.  It would expand the existing Harborwalk.

And it would do all this for a mere billion dollars or so, or a little more than $100,000 per linear foot of coastline.  If this sounds like a lot – and it does to me – it’s less than the estimated $3.9 billion in assets that climate change would put at risk in the Wharf District in the absence of this plan.

Of course, there’s still a bit to do, such as figuring out what the public realm will look like, who will pay for the work, and how the work will be reviewed and permitted.  Writ large, the question can be posed simply as how we find the political will to make the decisions necessary so that the Boston coastline is resilient to the impacts of climate change.

But there’s no point to doubting whether we can get this done.  Instead, it’s time to thank those who did this work, and to roll up our sleeves and start implementing it.

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