The Boston Harbor Association


In 1973, a group of farsighted volunteers with the League of Women Voters joined the Boston Shipping Association to form a new non-profit organization—The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA). Its sole purpose—to clean up one of the dirtiest harbors in the United States.

Thirty-eight years later, this vision has been realized. Through the collective efforts of thousands of people and billions of dollars, Boston Harbor has become one of the cleanest harbors in the country. The Port of Boston sees billions in commerce and thousands of cruise ship passengers each year. Swimmers have returned to the beaches, seals to the remote islands, and anglers to robust runs of watermelon-sized striped bass.

Through TBHA’s leadership and tenacity, visitors and residents can traverse a nearly-unbroken 39-mile HarborWalk through Boston’s six waterfront neighborhoods. With the completion of the harbor cleanup, new public spaces in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the HarborWalk and the Boston Harbor Islands, and booming waterfront redevelopment, this area is undergoing a joyful renaissance.

At the same time, climate change-related storm surges threaten to inundate the waterfront from East Boston to Dorchester. How can we continue to enjoy the beauty and vitality of Boston Harbor and its islands while preventing the rising ocean from swamping buildings and infrastructure of this historic city?

TBHA embraces this paradox, working with waterfront businesses, residents, public agencies and other non-profits to enhance the economic, recreational and scenic value of Boston’s waterfront while protecting the city from extreme weather events. Ours is a fifty-year shared vision, akin to our original efforts to cleaning up the harbor.

When we succeed, Boston will be a model for creative adaptation to climate change. The harborfront will provide substantial public amenities for the majority of the time, while providing a first line of protection for the city during severe flooding events.

Adaptation Work:

Most cities seeking to prevent coastal flooding use walls and levees to keep water out. Others, such as Seattle and Charleston, SC instead are developing “floodable zones” that preserve the city’s access to its waterfront while minimizing damage when periodic flooding occurs. We believe this model may be more appropriate for Boston than building levees or flood gates. We seek to research and develop this approach for Boston’s waterfront.

When we succeed, Boston will be a model for creative “no regrets” adaptation to sea level rise that will provide substantial public amenities for the vast majority of the time while providing a first line of protection for the downtown during severe weather events.

The TBHA recently released a report titled, 'Preparing for the Rising Tide Report.' Check it out here!

Phone Number: 617-482-1722