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As climate change forces cities to grapple with rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms, coastal cities must prepare for a heightened likelihood of flooding, whether tidal flooding from rising sea levels or a hurricane that could dump inches of rain in a short period of time.
For the last hundred years, protecting neighborhoods has often meant relying on sea walls — large, concrete barriers designed to withstand strong waves and rising waters. Beyond not being particularly attractive, they are expensive, can cause erosion and harm marine life.
City planners now say they are increasingly turning to methods aligned with the Dutch concept of “living with water.” Instead of resisting water, cities are channeling it to where they want it to go. Boston’s reimagined waterfront would be designed to handle at least 21 inches of sea-level rise, which the city anticipates by 2050.