Sea level rise planning included in Santa Barbara Harbor five-year funding plan

New capital projects being prioritized for funding and execution in fiscal year 2023 include sea level rise adaptation for Stern’s Wharf, the breakwater and the harbor/marina, among others.

SANTA BARBARA —The Santa Barbara Waterfront Department’s planned budget for the next five years includes funding to further study and plan for the effects of sea level rise.

The Santa Barbara Harbor Commission at its Nov. 19 meeting approved the Waterfront Department’s proposed five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a planning tool for developing and evaluating capital project funding needs.

Among the new capital projects being prioritized for funding and execution in fiscal year 2023 is sea level rise adaption for the breakwater, Sterns Wharf and harbor/marina. The department budgeted $100,000 for each of the three areas.

“Other departments, us and Public Works and some of the main players being effected, are starting to put small dollar amounts in there, not to do any physical work, but to kind of further study and get our heads around what timeline we’re going to have to start allocating big dollar amounts for this and get a better handle on what needs to be done,” Waterfront Director Mike Wiltshire told commissioners at the Nov. 19 meeting.

This comes on the heels of the release of the city’s Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan, which includes recommended actions for the city to take in the coming years to mitigate impacts of potential sea level rise. The plan is largely based on projections from a 2018 statewide analysis of potential sea-level rise scenarios. Actions in the plan include raising or modifying the harbor breakwater, rock groin, sandspit, and the walkway and wall spanning from the breakwater to the harbor commercial area; pursuing Army Corps of Engineers feasibility studies, funding, and assistance with these projects; renovating marina facilities and the City Pier in phases; continuing use of beach berms and considering additional beach or dune nourishment south of the harbor commercial area; continuing the current regulatory practice of limiting uses in the harbor; and requiring new development and substantial redevelopment be designed to avoid or mitigate the impacts associated with sea-level rise.

The plan specifically recommended to start in the next few years to plan for replacement or modification of the harbor breakwater, walkway, and seawall that spans from the breakwater to the waterfront offices in the harbor commercial area as well as the sandspit and rock groin.

“This is really money to begin the process of further studying how we’ll be tackling the effects of sea level rise,” Wiltshire said at the commission meeting.

The commission approved the five-year CIP, but Commissioner Michael Nelson questioned why they were planning to spend $400,000 on what is projected to be a billion-dollar project.

“$100,000 is not going to address our problems, our billions of dollars problems,” Nelson said. “I’m going to vote for this recommendation but reserve the right to be annoying and obnoxious later on.”

Wiltshire welcomed the comments.

“These dollars need to be scrutinized and talked about,” Wiltshire responded.

Other new capital projects prioritized for funding and execution as a part of the coming two-year budget cycle include marina management software; renewing parking kiosks for Harbor Main and Los Banos; replacing the Stearns Wharf waterline; upgrading the waterfront maintenance shop; replacing the Stearns Wharf sewer lift stations; replacing the roof at the harbor 132 building; remodeling the Leadbetter public restrooms; replacing City Pier hoists; and replacing Harbor Patrol Boat 3.

The department must prepare and submit the fiscal year 2022-2023 budget to the City Council by February 1, 2021. Final approval of the specific CIP projects will occur when Council adopts the city’s budget in June 2021. Future year projects for fiscal year 2024-2026 will not be funded as part of the upcoming budget process, but are included in the Five-Year CIP for advance planning purposes.


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