Experts Look at Climate Change and Impact on Winthrop

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Just mention climate change and flooding and you get people’s attention in Winthrop. The Town is in a flood zone and the majority of homeowners cringe at the reality of flood insurance.

Last Thursday night at the EB Newtown School, experts from Woods Hole Group in Falmouth and Stantec of Boston spoke about an upcoming study that they will do regarding climate change and flooding. In the end,  they will be offering tips to make the Town more resilient in the event of a flooding disaster.

There will be another public meeting at the end of May and the final report, a vulnerability assessment, will be presented to the Town at the end of June.

“One of the natural stressors is climate change (and effects on water levels)” said Jen Ducey of Stantec.

Kirk Bosma, coastal engineer with Woods Hole Group, said after Hurricane Sandy the MassDOT asked what happens in Massachusetts if something similar happens here? He noted that the recently re-worked FEMA maps don’t show what happens when a storm hits. He noted that other models also show what happens during storms on the North Shore like the Blizzard of 1978, the Perfect Storm and others.

Woods Hole Group helped the Town of Winthrop challenge FEMA last year when the new maps came out to help with flood insurance.

At the beginning of the presentation to 30 people, a photograph of a flooded out Shirley Street and children playing in the water on a row boat was shown. Images like that could come back. The risk of flooding, especially during storms increase with each year and by 2070 the flood risk appears to  to cover East Boston, parts of Chelsea, the Greenway and as far south as Hingham.

As part of their upcoming study,  experts will come up with solutions like burms, a living shoreline and working with existing seawalls. The study will also show the flood pathways, showing in which direction the water flows. It will also consider Lewis Lake, the point in Town where everything tends to drain toward.

During any event the Town must protect its infrastructure. Bosom said there are 16 points of interest in Town from pumping stations to Point Shirley and Deer Island adds to the complexity too.

“Winthrop acts as shoreline protection for the area,” Bosma said referring to Lewis Lake, Ingleside Park, Belle Isle Marsh, Fisherman Bed and Point Shirley.

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