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Sea Level Rise Meeting

On Friday, June 19, I had the opportunity to attend an event at Nasa Ames hosted by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Assemblyman Rich Gordon called “Meeting the Challenge of Sea Level Rise in Santa Clara County”. At this meeting, there were many speakers on panels and a terrific keynote speaker (I highly recommend viewing his presentation) who discussed the coming impacts of inevitable sea level rise, and what options we have to meet it head on. 

I found the reports to be very gloomy, and almost like the SLR is a fait accompli, and anything we do now will only postpone the inevitable. However, there are a few bright spots in that we CAN extend our timetable for the eventual rise. Just as we were supposed to run out of gasoline by the year 1995 when we had the oil crisis in 1975, perhaps we can offer real mitigation for the South Bay and around the world.

Below are my notes on some of the presentations. 

  • Shared her concern over the 3-4′ rise in sea level in the next 20 years; reference the Pope’s encyclical and our shared need to act morally for those that are poor or do not have much of a voice.

  • Discussed the importance of acknowledging SLR and making plans now to address it. One of the State representatives actively working on this topic.

Keynote Speaker  – Gary Griggs, Director, Institute of Marine Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences, UCSC (view presentation)

  • Over 600,000 years that climate change has been happening; cyclical; see ice core samples of CO2. Less than 300 ppm until 2008 when jumped to 400 ppm this past year. 

  • “CO2 is natural, not political”

  • In 1993, we started to get more accurate data on sea level using satellites to 10th mm accuracy.

  • The effect of greenhouse gasses for next 100y would be in place even if we stopped emissions now.

  • Look to BCDC website for surging seas and submergence risk map (e.g., population, social vulnerability, etc)

  • Extreme events are happening: tsunamis, el Nino, King tides, storm surges. King tides are amplified in the South Bay by up to 10 feet. Couple that with a storm surges, and the land around the South Bay will be inundated.

  • See a report on “Adapting to Sea Level Rise: A guide”

  • See report on “High Tides on Main Street”

  • Slide 22 is quite humorous related to sea level rise!

NASA Ames and Sea Level Rise by Cristina Milesi, NASA – ECOCAST research scientist (View Presentation)

  • NASA project CASI for climate change-related vulnerabilities at facilities around the USA.

  • Landing strip, levees and retention pond (superfund leftovers) would be underwater.

  • Salt marsh improvements and expansions can mitigate to a certain level. 

Panel One: Challenges and Options in Santa Clara County and the Region Moderator –Will Travis, Retired Executive Director, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, EcoAdapt Board member

1. Larry Goldzband, BCDC Executive Director (view presentation)

  • Neworked assets, collaboration, partnership themes.

  • He calls SLR at “Slow Moving Emergency” because of the slow rising and the large infrastructure that would be affected.

  • We have critical, place-based infrastructure to take care of. 

  • Need to focus on underserved communities, such as Alviso, East Palo Alto, West Oakland, Richmond, San Rafael.

  • Bay and Riverine flooding will be felt hardest by Bay and Coastal communities.

  • Contact info:; (415) 352-3653

2. Thomas Kendall, Chief, Planning Branch US Army Corps of Engineers, SF District (view presentation)

  • South Bay Shoreline Study with Coastal Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service (with Santa Clara Valley Water District) working in Alviso

  • Additional partners working together in Santa Clara County

  • Cost is $175M now.

  • Working on habitat expansion to help mitigate SLR impact on South Bay.

3. Dr. Dan Rasky, Chief, Space Portal Office, NASA Ames Research Center (View Presentation)

  • Many NASA facilities along seaboard (e.g., Ames, Kennedy, etc.)

  • 40 cm SLR at 2050 is expected, 140 cm SLR at 2100

  • $364M to replace affected buildings; $67M building contents at risk (e.g., equipment)

  • Loss of habitat on properties

  • Solution: horizontal levee raising via marhsland

4. Eric Simmons, Engineer, FEMA Region IX

  • High rist to damage casued by floods

  • National flood insurance may help financially

  • Next month will release draft flood insurance requirements

  • San Francisco Bay Regional Coastal Hazards Adaptation Resiliency Group (SFCHARG): policy, regulation, land use, strategic briefs (website)

5.Susan Stuart, Health Planner, Center for Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department

  • Climage change impacts on health are not much discussed by need to be.

  • Heat events, air quality, infectious diseases are part of problems with SLR

  • 2008 had neighborhood relocation; mental health impacts due to relocation were long lasting

  • At risk populations are those without strong economic and social situations

  • Public health consequenst of climate change need adaptation and solutions.

Panel Two:  Local Initiatives & Action Moderator – Greg Scharff, BCDC Commissioner and Palo Alto City Council member

1. Supervisor Dave Pine, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors (view presentation)

2. Lisa Au, Principal Civil Engineer, City of Mountain View (view presentation)

  • SLR studey, 8″-31″ aby 2067; levees with working pumps required; $40-60M in projects needed

3. Len Materman, Executive Director, San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (view presentation)

  • Creeks issues can be solved (e.g., San Francisquito Creek)

  • Bay flooding is still highly likely; taking action now; done with studies

  • 9  mile project on either side of Palo Alto to address 3′ SLR, see

  • See SAFER Bay Project: marsh restoration, trails, 11 reaches, 24 alernatives

4. Demetra McBride, Executive Director, County of Santa Clara Office of Sustainability (view presentation)

  • Addressed Silicon Valley 2.0, May 4 draft released. (view website)

  • Overview: developed by the County of Santa Clara Office of Sustainability in order to respond to a gap in regional climate adaptation planning, and the need for an implementation playbook rather than, simply, a plan.  In addition, authors of the project focused on the question of what tool would best serve decision-makers and those who influence and consult them where significant commitments and long-term strategies are needed.

5. Melanie Richardson, Deputy Operating Officer, Santa Clara Valley Water District (view presentation)

  • More studies; priority to address salt pond restoration

6. Drew Wenzel, Campus Design Technical Specialist, Google

  • Need case studies of businesses

  • Private/government processes and templates for businesses to work with government

To see the presentations, visit Assemblyman Rich Gordon’s event page.


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