The Regional Saugus River Floodgate Project is the primary option to regional protection which is being re-evaluated and updated in the Boston North Shore Study. The project is a coastal flood protection project to provide a very high level of protection to the Cities of Revere, Lynn, Malden and Everett, and the town of Saugus, Massachusetts. The region, five (5) miles north of Boston, is the most vulnerable area along the Massachusetts coast to storm surge flooding and sea level rise.
The US Army Corps of Engineers New England Division investigated solutions to the problem with 5 Steering Committees over 4 years ($2.6 million). The Recommended Regional Project includes a Floodgate structure at the mouth of the Saugus River with nine (9) gated openings 500 feet wide, designed to provide safe passage for navigation and the natural tide levels and flushing in the 1,650 acre tidal Estuary landward of the gates. The Estuary would be purchased and managed to protect its flood water storage and environmental resources. The gates would be tied to 3.1 miles of shorefront improvements along Lynn Harbor, Point of Pines and the Revere Beach Reservation. It would protect 5,000 buildings, 8,000 housing units, 10,000 residents, 20,000 employees and 400,000 commuters in the region against the worst coastal storm likely to occur and against sea level rise, estimated damages at $ 1.3 billion.
With 2.5 feet of sea level rise from 1980 to 2070, the SPN floodplain would increase from 5,000 buildings to about 6,000 buildings that would be protected by the project. The increase is attributed to both an estimated growth in development of about 4%, and an increase in the SPN floodplain by 2070 since the 1980 period of about 2.5 feet. For Lynn the estimated 1980 floodplain with 1200 buildings would increase by about 50 buildings in growth plus 150 in raising the SPN floodplain due to sea level rise for a total of 1,400 flood-prone buildings by 2070. Behind Revere Beach and along the estuary increasing from 1500 + 57+190 totaling 1,750 buildings. At Point of Pines in Revere from 370 +growth of 14, say 380 total. In Saugus buildings would increase from 900 + 40 + 150, totaling say 1,100 buildings. In the Town Line Brook floodplain of Revere, Malden and Everett the 19080 floodplain would increase from 1100 buildings ib +50 +200, totaling, say 1,350 buildings.
The 2.5 year final design effort ($6 million, 75%) completed by 1993 most of the investigations and the physical and numerical modeling of the Floodgates, estuary, breaching I-95, and shorefront improvements. The project would cost an estimated $230 million (2020 p.l.) and be cost shared with the Federal Government. A narrow opening in an abandoned I-95 embankment restricts tidal flows to 500 acres in the upper Estuary deteriorating the wetlands. The modeling showed the strong advantage of restoring sand dunes to protect Point of Pines using the I-95 sand and reducing overtopping along Revere Beach. The use of this sand could remove 4,900 feet of the embankment restoring 16.7 acres of ecosystem habitat and restore flushing to the upper estuary. Breaching and removing the I-95 embankment to restore the wetlands is a major goal of resource agencies.
The Secretary of Environmental Affairs after the NEPA/MEPA review provided a positive Certificate, the Commonwealth then supported it, and the US Congress authorized the Project for construction. Then in the fall of 1993 a new Secretary of Environmental Affairs, an environmental activist from Rhode Island, was opposed to construction along the Massachusetts coast and the project was stopped, and since it has been de-authorized. Renewed interest in the Project by the communities due to coastal flooding and accelerated sea level rise has resulted in the Boston North Shore Feasibility Study which was authorized by the President on 23 Dec 2022 to investigate the flooding and ecosystem needs of the region.