Tide Highlights Vulnerabilities on Chelsea Creek for Sea Level Rise

Chelsea GreenRoots has made a cottage industry of planning and preparing others for the possibilities of sea level rise, but on Tuesday afternoon, that rise was on them.

Literally, on them.

The King Tides – a naturally occurring phenomenon that takes place due to the position of the moon and Sun – hit Boston around 12:34 p.m. on Tuesday and the GreenRoots building was front and center in the fray.

The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) highlighted conditions on the Creek with a chartered boat ride that showed many of the vulnerabilities to area like the Forbes site, the Chelsea Street Bridge, the Mary C. Burke School Complex, and industrial uses like the salt pile and Gulf plant.

While the King Tide was a naturally-occurring phenomenon, it added two feet to the normal tide levels in the Creek and Boston Harbor. That, said advocates, gave a peek into what predicted sea levels might be like in the future. Such high levels, as displayed along the Creek on Monday, could be catastrophic in the future with large tidal storms – inundating huge swaths of land unless some measures are taken, they said.

“As an organization deeply concerned with how our community will be impacted by climate change, we saw the King Tides as an opportunity to see how rising seas are already affecting our neighborhoods,” said Roseann Bongiovanni, director of GreenRoots. “While there are predictions for years out, this week’s tides show how proximate climate change is and how we need to be prepared now, not just in 10 years and beyond. Together with organizations like Mystic River Watershed Association, the Green Justice Coalition and the City of Chelsea, we’re coming up with innovative solutions to ensure Chelsea is not only prepared, but resilient, in the face of more erratic and damaging weather patterns. The first step in implementing those solutions is to ensure residents are leading the way.”

Chelsea was first alerted to the impending dangers last year during two large high tides that occurred during coastal surge Nor’easter storms. Those storms pushed tidal levels to record highs on two occasions. That produced flooding that nearly compromised the New England Produce Center and the surrounding businesses – which are critical to the region’s food supply chain.

They also flooded areas not typically used to seeing water – such as very high levels on Marginal Street and in the Island End/Marina areas.

Chelsea officials and GreenRoots have come up with several contingencies, including a vast plan in the Island End area to provide coastal resiliency through grey and green infrastructure along the waterfront there.

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