by: Tony Keith, RLA
Viewing news footage of the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy this past winter and witnessing firsthand the recurring storm damage from El Nino conditions here on the West Coast, it is clear to me that our coastal cities are increasingly at risk. Whether you accept the science of global warming, or the premise that we are just in a natural cycle, the answer is the same: we must prepare in advance and implement strategies to address a new set of criteria for planning and building along our shoreline or suffer devastating consequences.
Development along the waterfront is set in an extremely dynamic context that is dramatically changing within our lifetime. Few coastal locations host more diverse activities in one place than along our coastal city waterfronts; commerce, industry, recreation, man-made environments and natural beauty all intersect in this unique setting. With critical infrastructure increasingly at risk, we have clear choices to make, new questions to ask and new solutions to seek.
Sea levels have risen about 8 inches in the past 100 years and are projected to rise as much as 55 inches by the end of the century as stated in an analysis prepared for three California state agencies. The Pacific Institute estimates that 480,000 people, a wide range of critical infrastructure, vast areas of wetlands and other natural ecosystems, and nearly $100 billion in property along the California coast are at increased risk from flooding due to sea-level rise if no adaptation actions are taken.