By SCOTT JACKSON
The Quincy Conservation Commission approved plans to replace 8,000 linear feet of seawall running from Adams Shore to Houghs Neck, the first of several permits the project will need before work can begin.
The commission approved the plan in a 4-0 vote Wednesday night following a public hearing that lasted more than an hour. Some of the residents who spoke at the hearing urged the city to build a higher wall than the current design calls for, though engineers working with the city said the height has yet to be determined.
Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy said construction could start as early as next spring provided the permitting process is complete and the project receives financing. City officials will seek grants for the project, which does not yet have a final price tag. Additional community meetings on the plan could be held early next year as the design is finalized.
The city plans to replace the seawall along Quincy Bay in two phases. The first phase – which the Conservation Commission approved at its meeting – is the 8,000 linear of seawall between Chickatabot Road and Babcock Street. The second phase would go from Babcock Street to Bayswater Road. David Murphy, an engineer with the firm Tighe & Bond, said the second phase is currently being designed.
The current seawall along the area of phase one is about 11 feet above mean sea level, Murphy said. The plan proposed at the commission hearing calls for the seawall to be raised an additional two feet with an optional two-foot extension that could be added in the future.
Some area residents felt doing the four-foot increase at once would be too much, Murphy said.
“One of the feedbacks we received was doing the four-foot increase that was tossed around was too high. We believe the four-foot [increase] adequately address long-term sea level rise and increased storm surges, but that’s going out 50 to 75 years,” he said.
“We believe a two-foot increase is sufficient for the near future, but the design is including the ability to add a two-foot extension on top of it in the future.”
As part of the project, Murphy said the 14 stormwater outfalls that run under the seawall to Quincy Bay would be improved. Replacement outfalls will be installed capable of handling rain from a 100-year-storm, and designed so that water in the outfall can flush out any sediment in the pipe. The outfalls would also include check valves to prevent seawater from surging inland.
The seawall blocks themselves will also have drainpipes installed in them to let any water drain out to the sea. Those would also include check valves to ensure the water would only flow out to sea.
Some of the residents who spoke at the hearing were concerned the new seawall would only stand two feet higher than the one currently in place.
Bernie Rines, a Terne Road resident, said she was concerned a two-foot increase in the seawall height would not be enough as sea level rises in the future.
“It’s going to come up more and more and I don’t want to have to worry about moving my house up or anything else. I’ve been talking to a lot of my neighbors and most of them say four feet – there are a couple that say two feet,” Rines said. “I say go for the four feet now.”
Lillian Austin, a Sea Street resident, likewise said she wanted to see the seawall height raised by four feet, not two.
“If we don’t do it right and these water levels keep getting higher and higher, it’s a waste of money,” Austin said. “Do it right the first time.”
Murphy said the application before the Conservation Commission and other state and federal permitting agencies would allow for either a two-foot or four-foot increase in seawall height. The environmental impact would be the same for either design because only the height of the block placed atop the new concrete base would change, he explained.
“We’re not asking you to make the decision on the two or four,” Murphy told commission members. “That will be a city decision outside this commission.”
McCarthy, the Ward 1 councillor, said the new seawall could have different heights depending on the topography of the neighborhoods behind it. Lower-lying areas – like the Post Island Road and Terne Road neighborhoods – could see a four-foot increase, with a two-foot increase in other areas. Additional community meetings will be held to help determine the final height of the seawall.
“I think the two/four option should stay, because we’re probably going to go up in those low areas after we have probably a few more [meetings],” McCarthy said, noting he previously held four community meetings on the proposal since August.
“We’ll come back again once we’re about to start this whole project.”
Murphy said the height of the seawall would not have to be consistent because the size of waves varies.
“Common sense says to put the same elevation along the entire stretch. Engineering and science says in Boston Harbor…the wave fetch is different some areas,” he said.
Commission members said they supported giving the engineers designing the new seawall flexibility to determine its height.
“If that flexibility is there, I think that’s great,” said Maureen Glynn.
“I’m inclined to go with the experts,” added E. James Iorio. “My opinion on that is you give them the option of two to four depending on where they have to do it. Let the experts – the engineers – decide where it has to be one height and where it has to be anothe