Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dealing with a coastline's retreat

Gary Griggs in the Santa Cruz Sentinel: … The shoreline and sea cliff from San Diego to Santa Barbara is almost completely urbanized. In Santa Cruz County, homes, businesses, roads, parks and parking lots cover the coastline from Manresa to Natural Bridges. It's probably fair to say that California's most valuable real estate is right on the edge. But that edge is never in the same place for more than a few decades. The shoreline moves back and forth as the sea level rises and falls in response to climate change.

Around the Mediterranean Sea, civilizations have dealt with this phenomenon for thousands of years. In California, however, our coastal development and construction history is much shorter. Photographs of coastal bluffs in Santa Cruz County from the late 1800s reveal that people didn't build right at the edge. But today, it's pretty much continuous development of one sort or another.

So how have we dealt with the erosion and retreat over the past 50-100 years and what are we going to do in the future? This is a complex issue involving expensive and difficult questions, and it's not going to get any easier in the future. Historically there have been three basic options for dealing with coastal retreat: retreat or relocation; Armor or protection; or beach nourishment…..

Moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999, in a shot from the National Park Service

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