Are we Ready for Rising Seas?

Rising waters at Redwood City in years to come reach Highway 101 in this graphic.
Rising waters at Redwood City in years to come reach Highway 101 in this graphic.
Filling up a 400 seat theater at the College of San Mateo at 8 AM on a Monday morning with local citizens who want to know more about the impact sea level rise on San Mateo county is an  impressive accomplishment. Dave Pine and Michael Barber deserve a lot of credit for putting it together.

Redwood City folks we spotted there included City Planner Blake Lyon, Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt, and Inner Harbor Plan consultant Jill Ekas, as well as the Port's Mike Giari, who is also on the Inner Harbor task force and at least two other task force members, Carole Wong and Gail Raabe. It would have been nice to see our own City Manager and Mayor join their counterparts from Burlingame and San Mateo but it's start.

For many attendees it was a wake up call on the enormity of the challenges ahead, with ocean level estimates as much as 5 feet higher by 2100. Even a 3 foot rise, which we know is coming at some point would lead to inundation of many waterfront properties, and major flooding in the face of a king tide coupled with a storm surge. 

Ex BCDC Director Will Travis, now sees a bay that's expanding not contracting raising a different set of questions than when he was battling for turf with the houseboats in Sausalito that he now fancies.

Which raises the interesting question, he said, as to whether we should focus on shutting ourselves off from the rising waters with higher and higher levees and huge landfill projects, or take a page from the Dutch by adapting to the water.

Pictures of floating structures in Travis' slideshow made the same point.  The answer of course is both. Levees, and tidal marshes, recreational boating.  Innovative meetings of land and waters.

There are other adaptive measures to look at as well.  Shoreline parks and playgrounds can be built up over time, and don't require much immediate fill.  Actor Brad Pitt developed homes in post Katrina New Orleans that rise on pillars in flood.   Expendable sacrificial floors is another idea that might work well in office towers.  

An actual Dutchman in the audience had the final word for the day, with his comment that what was most noteworthy in Holland when a major storm hit recently that would have been a disaster in many places but hardly made the news at all. No panic. No flooding. "The Dutch are prepared" he noted, that "so we can just sit there and drink our coffee."

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JoAnn December 12, 2013 at 10:33 AM
This was a wonderful and informative discussion on sea level rise. I read John Englander's book; "High Tide on Main Street", and it was quite alarming. These talks drilled right to the point; 1) At least 3 feet of sea level rise will happen before 2100 2) We have to move now on all fronts to slow carbon emissions 3) We have to move now to protect our SF Bay and learn to live with the rising sea 4) The much talked about 2013 IPCC still does NOT include the melting of Antarctica ice fields, the largest amount of ice that will impact sea level so their measures are certainly not high enough It was interesting to see former BCDC director Will Travis' slides including floating homes as an adaptive measure to sea level rise. In RWC we have an interesting and unique floating community that is one measure that we can use to adapt to rising seas. Let's fight to keep this community alive. Come to the next Inner Harbor meeting on Jan 14, 2014.
Claire Felong December 12, 2013 at 01:15 PM
Thank you for the summary Lee as I was not able to make the meeting.


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