Sea-Level-Rise Report Calls for Increased Action on the California Coast

Dec 31, 2019 at 12:00am

California Water Plan eNews

A report on preparing for sea rise along the California coast has been released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. It calls for coastal communities to increase the extent and the pace of sea-level-rise (SLR) preparation efforts. The recommendations in the report include increasing public awareness of the risks and effects of SLR.

California Faces the Threat of Extensive and Expensive SLR Impacts.

California’s coast could experience SLR ranging from about half of 1 foot by 2030 up to about 7 feet by 2100. Periodic events like storms and high tides will produce even higher water levels and increase the risk of flooding. Rising seas will also erode coastal cliffs, dunes, and beaches which will affect shore front structures and recreation.

Most Responsibility for SLR Preparation Lies With Local Governments, However, the
State Has a Vested Interest in Ensuring the Coast Is Prepared.

Most of the development along the coast is owned by either private entities or local governments—not the state. Additionally, most land use policies and decisions are made by local governments, and they are most knowledgeable about their communities. Local governments will need to grapple with which existing infrastructure, properties, and natural resources to try to protect from the rising tides; which to modify or move; and which may be unavoidably affected. However, given the statewide risks, the state can play an important role in encouraging and supporting local efforts and helping to alleviate some of the challenges local governments face.

Many Coastal Communities Are Only in the Early Stages of Preparing for SLR.

The progress of SLR preparation across the state’s coastal communities has been slow. Moreover, few coastal communities have yet begun implementing projects to respond to the threat of rising seas. Coastal communities must increase both the extent and pace of SLR preparation efforts if California is to avoid the most severe, costly, and disruptive impacts in the coming decades.

Delaying SLR Preparations Will Result in Lost Opportunities and Higher Costs.

Planning ahead means adaptation actions can be strategic and phased, helps “buy time” before more extreme responses are needed, provides opportunities to test approaches and learn what works best, and may make overall adaptation efforts more affordable and improve their odds for success. The next decade represents a crucial time period for taking action to prepare for SLR. 

Find out more about how California is preparing for SLR and read the full report here.