California Coastal Commission resolves to combat sea level rise
Policy direction comes ahead of planned state summit on climate action.
REDONDO BEACH — The California Coastal Commission dug its heels into the 1,100-plus miles of state coastline and resolved to continue its fight against sea level rise, as commissioner unanimously adopted a resolution on Aug. 8 to maintain California’s beaches and shoreline amidst a changing environment.
Among the tools recommended by the commission to address sea level rise and protect California shoreline were best available science data, coastal armoring, implementation of adaptation strategies and community collaboration.
“As you all know, the sea level is rising,” Coastal Commission Executive Director John Ainsworth said. “Our understanding of how much, where and when is also increasing.”
Coastal Commission staff presented the sea level rise and shoreline preservation resolution ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit, which will be held Sept. 12-14 in San Francisco and hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“The summit will underscore the need … to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change,” Ainsworth said. “The summit’s discussion will spur climate action in key areas, including land and ocean stewardship.”
Ainsworth also mentioned two reports issued by California’s Ocean Protection Council, or OPC – Rising Seas in California: An Update on Sea-Level Rise Science (April 2017) and State of California Sea Level-Rise Guidiance: 2018 Update (March 2018).
Commissioner Mary Luevano said the resolution takes “a leadership position” and fosters a conversation on climate change and sea level rise.
A Coastal Commission staff report to commissioners added sea level rise will negatively affect coastal access and recreational opportunities.
“Loss of beaches, shorelines and related coastal habitats from the effects of sea level rise and shoreline development will further impact California residents and visitors’ ability to access and recreate along the coast,” Coastal Commission staff stated. “In addition, average temperatures are rising, leading to increased demand for beach recreation areas that provide free or low cost opportunities to recreate and exercise in cooler temperatures and cleaner air.”
The approved resolution stated California’s coast plays a valuable role in the national tourism economy and, accordingly, must be protected from the potential harms of sea level rise. More than 250 million people visit the state each year and contribute to a coastal economy worth about $44 billion, according to the Coastal Commission. California’s coastal counties are also home to 1 in 15 Americans, meaning the negative effects of sea level rise could prove harmful to large population centers should various estimates and predictions become a reality.
Coastal Commission staff did receive some opposition to the sea level rise resolution. The opposition statements criticized the commission’s resolution for being too focused on beaches or advocating for managed retreat (as a response to rising oceans and coastal flooding).
A speaker at the Coastal Commission’s Aug. 9 meeting stated he was opposed to sea level rise resolution because he was not sure how it would affect his private property rights.
“We acknowledge these concerns raised by these letters,” Ainsworth said, adding the quasi-judicial agency would continue to address all aspects of sea level rise policy through the best available science.
An informational presentation on sea level rise policy guidance, originally planned for the commission’s Aug. 9 meeting, was postponed.