Guidelines for how cities and local agencies should adapt roads, railways and water systems to accommodate rising seas were unanimously approved by the State Coastal Commission on Wednesday.
The 230-page document sets a controversial benchmark by urging communities to prepare for the Pacific Ocean to rise 10 feet by 2100, a projection from current calculations that climate scientists have yet to predict. The probability has not been determined. The potential for growth of 6 feet by 2100 is rated to be 1-in-200.
Focusing on important, long-term public projects that require significant funding and advance planning, the Commission’s guidance underscores the urgency to go beyond existing infrastructure to prepare for oceans. It emphasizes approaches that allow land access to the Pacific, encourages the relocation of features further inland and discourages the use of coastal weapons such as sea walls.
The commissioners said the document is designed to help cities and agencies figure out how to take appropriate steps at a time when there is no unified vision.
“The quality of coastal adaptation plans has been so varied and it will help,” said Commissioner Mark Gold, executive director of the state’s Ocean Conservation Council.
The document, titled “Critical Infrastructure at Risk: Sea Level Rise Planning Guidance for California’s Coastal Zone,” received objections from several high-profile agencies and their representatives, including the League of California Cities, Orange County Transportation, before the meeting. Authority, California Association of Sanitation Agencies, Los Angeles County Sanitary District and City of Huntington Beach.
The most prominent concern was that the document used a scenario of a 10-foot rise in sea level by 2100, which he complained was unreasonably extreme, would entail exorbitant costs and, in some cases, unforgivable. Was.
The California Association of Sanitation Agencies and Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts suggest using the benchmark 3.7 feet of growth by 2070, the latest projection used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The UN projection is “already too conservative and in line with a future in which there are no significant global efforts to limit or reduce emissions,” Los Angeles County sanitation districts wrote in a letter to the commission.
However, Coastal Commission staff pushed back on the complaint on the 10-foot rise standard, saying the current calculations did not take into account all relevant information.
As commission staff report, “This is because the climate models used to generate the probabilities do not incorporate the mechanisms of extreme ice sheet melting from recent research that is a 10-foot) enhances the landscape.”
Staff also noted that more extreme levels of exposure to road and water infrastructure should be employed because they are typically multi-million dollar commitments made to last for decades or more, if they are to be met. There is an increased risk of dire consequences if replacement or repair is required. Staff said it would be more cost-effective to move or otherwise optimize that infrastructure in the near term than to pick up the pieces after it’s too late.
Other city and agency complaints include an emphasis on resettlement and the document’s disagreement with coastal sea walls, saying the commission’s approach may be particularly difficult in urbanized areas.
Concerns also emerged from local courts that the guidance would be imposed on them, although the document said it was “to be used as explanatory guidelines, not rules.”
While the lion’s share of 23 letters filed with the commission were from representatives of agencies and cities opposing aspects of the guidance, most of the public and the commission’s discussion in Wednesday’s online meeting was related to the fact that desalination plants were Mentioned features were not included. ,
Ten of the 16 public speakers, including representatives from eight environmental groups, called on the commission to include desalination plants as “critical infrastructure” addressed, especially since the guidance was designed to address water facilities. Most of those speakers were opposed to a proposed $1.4 billion desalination plant by Poseidon Water for Huntington Beach, which is in the process of obtaining permits from the commission.
“Critical facilities generally need to be built to a higher standard than regular commercial desalination facilities,” said Susan Jordan of the Coastal Security Network.
Employees said any desalination plant that was integrated into a large water system or was critical to local supply, such as Poseidon’s proposal, would be given the same scrutiny whether or not it was mentioned in the guidance. But the commissioners expressed concern that the lapse could leave a loophole for such projects.
After much discussion about how to address the issue without delaying the approval of the document, the commissioners agreed to add language, saying that desalination plants would “generally be considered critical facilities” if they were to kind of infrastructure criteria.