We seek to help identify and apply effective affordable ways to make vulnerable sites in the Boston Harbor resilient to flooding, erosion and sea level rise, as well as to continue shifting this harbor from toxic degradation of essential fish habitats to restoring water bodies and resilient coastal systems.

Our design has developed simple but comprehensive ideas to match current and anticipated changes allowing ample flexibility to make necessary modifications to optimize the adaptability while managing the cost of implementation and making it attainable. Specifically, we will demonstrate integrated restoration of two keystone coastal habitats: salt marsh (85% loss) and shellfish beds (oyster beds 90% loss).

Designated project area at Savin Hill Cove in Dorchester Bay, along Morrissey Boulevard, at Boston Harbor, has three major impediments: a) sediment and water pollution and habitat degradation; b) sediment accretion (two inches/year); and c) severe flooding and erosion.

We propose four green and sustainable interventions:

  1. Restoration of 40 acres of fringing salt marshes to provide storage of 4 million liters of water per acre, reduce wave height by 90% within 20 m of the marsh edge, accrete sediment 1-2 cm/m²/y; and absorb 2kg of CO₂/m²/y (carbon sequestration);
  2. Restoration of 100 acres of shellfish beds: native species of oyster, ribbed and blue mussels, softshell clams; oysters provide shoreline buffers, improve water and sediment quality by filtering 30-50 gallons of water/day/oyster;
  3. Re-vegetation and retrofit of 3,000 linear meters of shoreline along existing ripraps, parapets and sea walls; providing coastal habitats and buffers, improving water quality and biodiversity, and visual quality of this landscape edge.
  4. Introduction of floating salt marshes built from environmentally friendly materials (e.g. green cement);

Time management and gradual adaptation approaches are important particularly when it comes to needed change in social, economic and cultural behavior. Our Biomimicry LivingLabs will:

  1. Respond to gradual sea level rise over time;
  2. Educate and inspire a new generation of environmental problem solvers;
  3. Bring solutions to the local community, and
  4. Engage traditional knowledge with industries and businesses in applying sustainable practices to restore and adapt our urban coastal areas. Gradual implementation of the proposed design will allow continuous feedbacks and participation from various communities, and allow adaptations to make resilient improvements. Living and thriving with water will become a new paradigm in urban coastal systems.

Proposed Project Design adaptations to sea level rise include:

  1. Restoration of coastal habitats and the increase in biological diversity in an area already designated as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH);
  2. Improvements to water and sediment quality;
  3. Reduction of impacts from wave energy, erosion and coastal flooding;
  4. Provision for carbon sequestration and storm water management;
  5. Reestablishment of lost ecological functions and beneficial natural services in the urban harbor and allowing natural adaptations;
  6. Establishment of innovative educational and outreach Biomimicry LivingLabs for coastal stewardship between local communities, schools, businesses, students and practitioners;
  7. Setting the stage for new collaborative thinking, dreaming and doing to design resilient human built infrastructure: the symbiosis between human and natural aspects of the harbors.
Company Name
Green Harbors Project, UMass Boston

Team Member(s)
Varoujan Hagopian, Coastal Engineer
Wilson Martin, Landscape Architect
Cynthia Smith, Landscape Architect
Talya ten Brink, Landscape Architect
Martina McPherson, GIS and Remote Sensing Analyst, SLR
Ellen Douglass, Scientist in Hydrology and Hydrological Modelling
Kristina Hill, Landscape Architect
Kirk Hiatt, Designer
Iris Yung-Ching Lin, Landscape Architect
Fan Di, Landscape Designer
Deniz Bertuna, Graduate Student in Marine Science
Sean Sears, Undergraduate Student in Environmental Science
Stephen Norris, Graduate student in Environmental Policy and Management