Left: Technicians construct ReefBLK Kachmar says it’s possible that 34 the island had complained of the effects gabions at Mad Island Marsh Preserve. small islands that speckle Boston Harbor, of erosion on its shores. History records Right: Coastal Environments’ boat making up the Boston Harbor National sea walls built and reinforced several installing ReefBLK gabion cages ﬁ lled Recreation Area, will play a key role in that with oyster shells at Mad Island Marsh times on Gallops Island before the 20th Preserve in 2005. effort. According to Kachmar, the collec-century by laborers, craftsmen, and even tion of islands already serves as much more prisoners. However, Kachmar says, even than scenic respite. When vicious nor’easters or the remnants today the island continues to shrink, and should islands of hurricanes pass along the coast, the islands help buffer the such as Gallops Island vanish beneath the waves, Boston waves, providing downtown Boston with natural protection would stand to lose a vital natural defense against the fierce from high tides and storm surge. But, he says, with sea levels storms endemic to the region. To help meet this challenge, rising and storms intensifying, these natural buffers may, in the City of Boston partnered with the Nature Conservancy time, prove insufficient to protect downtown sea walls from and the USACE to design and implement an artificial overtopping during storms or extreme tides. offshore reef at Gallops Island to test an innovative coastal protection strategy. A Beacon and a Bellweather “We know there is erosion,” he says. “There is some Among these tiny spits of land sits on Gallops Island, once infrastructure in terms of a pier and a traditional jetty that used to quarantine 19th century immigrants on their way are threatened by the erosion, but there is no private infra-to Boston from Europe. In historic times, the prevalence of structure and no houses. It seemed like a good place to try the smallpox virus outside the US necessitated a period of to demonstrate if we could build these submerged reefs and quarantine for many of these travelers. Sadly, officials and have some public value by protecting a state island. And if we caregivers on Gallops Island watched more than 200 new scaled that up, we could do it in multiple places in the harbor arrivals die while still in quarantine, never to set foot in the over time that would have some collective storm surge risk City. Gallops Island also served as an internment site for cap-reduction value to greater Boston.” tured German merchant sailors during World War I. During the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, the tiny island housed some Minimizing Impacts on Sedimentation of Boston’s influenza sufferers while researchers attempted In concept, the reef will protect the south-facing shore of to gauge the virulence of the disease. That experiment ended Gallops Island while allowing for the normal transport abruptly when the lead scientist contracted a fatal case. The of sediment along shore. The project is planned to make island later housed a radio school for soldiers preparing to beneficial use of rocky dredge excavated by the $310 million serve in World War II, as well as a school for bakers. USACE Boston Harbor dredge project planned to begin in Now the island sits uninhabitable, contaminated with 2017. Irregular rocky material transported from the dredge asbestos from the debris of its small complement of disused project and dropped on the bay floor a few hundred feet off-and demolished structures. Although situated in and desig-shore is expected to accrete sediment and eventually provide nated as a part of Boston Harbor Island National Recreation diverse habitat, supporting the continued recovery of the Area, it is now considered a safety hazard and is closed to the local ecosystems. public. However, in the near future Gallops Island may be Although Kachmar says there had been discussion of destined to perform its greatest service to Boston ever. New building a barrier all across Boston Harbor, similar to what experiments planned for the island are being designed to test has been proposed for New York Harbor to protect New an innovative approach to reducing the risk of flooding in York City, state agencies and the Nature Conservancy have the center of the city. also expressed a keen interest in keeping adverse impacts of As far back as the 1880s, administrators operating the shoreline protection installations at a minimum. various health, immigration, and internment facilities on “Our impetus is to try to find solutions that are in 26 EROSION CONTROL WWW.EROSIONCONTROL.COM PHOTOS: COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS INC.