Turning Back the Tide
Coastal cities are woefully underprepared for the rising tides. In most places, houses, roads, subway systems and other infrastructure were built long before sea level rise was on our radar. But a few cities are taking steps to fortify themselves against the encroaching sea.
Boston: To cope with the expected 2- to 4-foot rise in sea level expected along the Massachusetts coast, the city adopted a policy in 2013 that requires developers to submit sea level preparedness plans when seeking approval for new projects. Some developers are already building with flooding in mind: The new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital was constructed with a raised first floor, and its electrical systems are housed on the roof.
New York: Officials are considering a $6.5 billion harbor wall to keep the water out. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed buying out residents in vulnerable areas and replacing their homes with wetlands and dunes to move people out of harm’s way and buffer the city against storm surges.
San Francisco: Officials have proposed a wetlands restoration project that will take several decades and several million — potentially billion — dollars to implement. It would help protect the city and surrounding areas.
Rotterdam: The low-lying Netherlands has battled the encroaching sea for centuries. The country uses an array of dikes, sluices and locks to contain the water just beyond land’s end, but officials have realized that walls are not enough; in some places, they can cause erosion and begin to sink, defeating their purpose. Now, officials in some cities are taking a new tack, widening rivers, replenishing natural sand barriers and creating parks designed to flood when waters rise.