Monday, September 21, 2009

Dutch help Bay Area plan for sea level rise

Julia Scott in the San Mateo County Times: How to plan for sea level rise, a still-abstract concept for many Californians, drew serious consideration from engineers, designers and urban planners from the Netherlands and the United States at a symposium Monday.

A group of government-sponsored Dutch experts presented a report with strategies to deal with sea level rise in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta based on a year's worth of research in partnership with the Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

With 50 percent of the Netherlands below sea level, the Dutch have been perfecting flood protection for the past 600 years. The inevitable effects of climate change in California, and how cities can adapt to them, are starting to get more attention from Bay Area planners. While no one knows exactly how sea level rise will play out 100 or 200 years from now, analysts agree that more severe and frequent floods are going to be a part of it.

Avoiding sea level rise is by now impossible. The Bay has risen 8 inches since the start of the 20th century, and scientists worldwide agree that the Bay Area in particular can expect to experience sea level rise of as much as 16 inches by midcentury and as much as 55 inches by 2100.

Extreme storms will increase annual risk of flooding from 1 percent to 100 percent if no actions are taken to protect the Bay Area shoreline, potentially endangering 270,000 residents, according to the Pacific Institute. Development along the shoreline is currently valued at $62 billion.

How to plan for a future in which some of that real estate is threatened by storm surges — for a time beyond what today's urban planners will live to see — is the crucial question, said Will Travis, executive director of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission….

This photo by Wing (from Wikimedia Commons) really shows San Francisco's vulnerability.Used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

No comments: