Coastal Commission commits to sea level rise principles

Non-regulatory guidelines could help California’s agencies pursue streamlined solutions to predicted sea level rise scenarios.

STATEWIDE—Sea level rise continues to be a hot topic of discussion for members of the California Coastal Commission. Commissioners and staff members spent a chunk of the May 13 meeting dedicated to discussing what the commission and other state agencies need to do in order to address the prospects of sea level rise in a unified and streamlined manner.

The discussion specifically revolved around a Coastal Commission staff recommendation to adopt sea level rise planning principles. There are six major principles, which were explained in a document, “Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action.”

The six principles of sea level rise: develop and utilize best available science; build coastal resilience partnerships; improve coastal resilience communications; support local leadership and address local conditions; strengthen alignment around coastal resilience; and, implement and learn from coastal resilience projects.

“These six principles will support and enhance California’s ongoing efforts related to climate change mitigation and adaption,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth added the six principles would allow the state to be efficient and consistent in how it addresses sea level rise with the involvement of multiple agencies.

“These principles are consistent and complementary to the Coastal Commission’s ongoing effort to address sea level rise. Adoption of these principles will support and enhance the commission’s efforts to work with local governments, state agencies, tribes, members of the public and [others],” Ainsworth continued.

The executive director added the six principles are not regulations.

Several state agencies could be attached to the “principles for aligned state action.” Those agencies include the Coastal Commission, California Natural Resources Agency, California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, Ocean Protection Council, State Coastal Conservancy, State Lands Commission, State Parks and State Water Resources Control Board.

Coastal Commission staff, in a report to commissioners, said the collection of state agencies view the state’s coast, bays and estuaries as at risk of sea level rise – as much as 7 feet or more by 2100.

The six principles presented to the Coastal Commission on May 13 called for the development and utilization of best available science, using a “minimum target of 3.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050.”

Questions abound about the basis of 3.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050.

“The Principles for Aligned State Action also include a target of 3.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050 for planning purposes, which sets a precautionary minimum baseline and which will provide a metric by which to measure statewide progress on adapting to sea level rise,” Coastal Commission staff said in a report to commissioners.

The Coastal Commission staff report also explained the lack of planning and adaptation could have negative results.

“Without planning and adaptation, future sea level rise will result in significant impacts to communities, with considerable environmental justice implications, upwards of hundreds of billions of dollars in impacts to property and development, impacts to statewide and regional water supplies, and damage to or loss of beaches, tidepools, wetlands, and other coastal habitats,” Coastal Commission staff said.


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