News

Back off the beach and the rising sea? No way, California cities say

An article posted today in CalMatters highlights an issue that cities along California's coast must address as sea levels continue to rise: how can vulnerable structures be re-located to safer ground? "Managed retreat", or the purposeful and planned re-location of people and infrastructure away from the shoreline, is one of the scenarios that coastal communities must plan and prepare for. 

The California Coastal Commission has asked that in submitting development projects and long-term plans for approval, local officials plan for the inevitability of sea level rise and consider, among other strategies, how to re-locate vulnerable structures away from the coast. Although the State has no policies in place nor plans to forcibly take private property away, planning for managed retreat has created understandable concerns for property owners in the direct path of sea level rise – concerns that must be balanced with other factors, including the needs of the larger community and the higher costs incurred later by deferring actions now that could help reduce risk and impacts.

"In the face of such political blowback, some officials are shirking their responsibility to plan for their community’s future," says Coastal Commission member Sara Aminzadeh in the article, noting that it is cheaper and more efficient to plan for a potential "managed retreat" scenario ahead of time than to undergo an "unmanaged retreat" by waiting for catastrophe to strike.

Recognizing that local governments need support to perform the type of complex planning required to address sea level rise and managed retreat scenarios, the Commission has provided more than $8 million to coastal towns to help fund the planning. This is a model for how the state can leverage its resources to support local advanced adaptation planning - one that we hope to see scaled up to support multiple-hazard climate adaptation planning across the state. 

Read the full article here