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Can Bay Area Communities Come Together to Plan for Sea Level Rise?

Bay Area municipalities need to work together to enable a comprehensive plan to protect against sea-level rise. Communities may be submerged as early as 2030.
June 4, 2020, 10am PDT | Lee Flannery
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Andrei Stanescu

The nine counties and 101 municipalities that span the water in the San Fransisco Bay Area have two common issues: the threat of sea-level rise and the lack of a regional plan to address rising sea levels. "Sea-level rise already threatens the bay shore, which, at about 500 miles, is half the length of the entire California coast. The worst is yet to come: The Bay Area needs to plan for a 2-foot rise by 2050 and up to 7 feet by 2100," warns Robin Meadows. 

Foster City, a community with a population of 34,000 people became the first municipality to build a levee large enough to protect the city's shoreline in 2018. Great for the City of Foster City, but what about their neighbors? As Meadows explains, "When seawalls are taller in one part of the bay, water can surge over lower walls in a completely different part."

Jessica Fain is the planner hoping to change the situation and unite municipalities under a cohesive plan. Even if her agency comes up with what they consider to be the ideal plan, they have no authority to implement. Without local coordination, the least wealthy cities and communities could be submerged by 2030. Fain hopes to give each community a voice and all stakeholders a say in the planning process.

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Published on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in High Country News
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