So, there’s this slight problem, where the ground water underneath the Back Bay and South End is going down, which is a bad thing, because it exposes the pilings (big, tall, pieces of wood) holding up the foundations of all those really cute Victorian homes that line our streets.

There’s several things the city can do to keep this from happening – they can fix all the pipes that take the water off our streets, to increase the flow of water to the right places and decrease the flow of water to the wrong places (I am not sure how this part actually works); they can pump massive amounts of water into the ground, to shore up the pilings; or, as seen below, they can take steps that pretty much puts a stop to any future developments in the entire downtown area.

They chose to focus on option #3.

The part of the story I especially enjoy are where it says, toward the bottom, that any project 50 square feet or larger will have to go through a public hearing.

Fifty square feet is about 7.5′ by 7.5′.  That’s small.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino and state Secretary for Commonwealth Development Douglas I. Foy are set to announce a plan today to combat dangerously low ground water levels under billions of dollars worth of Boston real estate.

In addition to an agreement among nine city and state agencies to coordinate their efforts, the city wants to require developers of projects of any size to demonstrate that they will not reduce ground water levels and that they will even help boost them.

“It’s a historic moment,” said Menino, who predicted that new proposals, “even as small as a patio on a house, will have to go to the BRA for review to see what effect it has on ground water.”

Menino said adding another Boston Redevelopment Authority requirement will not make the system more cumbersome for developers. “It’s protection, and long overdue.”

Thousands of buildings in the Back Bay, the lower blocks of Beacon Hill, and elsewhere were built on wood pilings driven into the ground. The pilings remain strong almost indefinitely if they stay wet, but many have begun rotting as ground water levels have fallen.

Underground structures like tunnels and basements block water movement and contribute to the problem. Also, rainwater from buildings and pavement tends to be diverted into sewers rather than flowing back into the ground.

Source: Plan set to remedy city’s low ground water – The Boston Globe

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