Proposal to extend sea level rise database signed into law

Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill to maintain planning measure in place through 2023.

SACRAMENTO — A legislative proposal to continue maintaining a database for sea level rise planning purposes has officially become law as Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on Assembly Bill 184 (AB 184), Sept. 28.

The sea level rise database was set to expire in 2018, which prompted Assembly member Marc Berman to introduce AB 184 earlier this year. AB 184 originally proposed to establish the sea level rise database as a permanent program. The bill, however, was later amended to allow for a five-year extension.

California currently maintains a database for sea level rise planning purposes. The database is populated with information provided by public and private entities and is maintained by Natural Resource Agency and Ocean Protection Council.

“Several state agencies as well as ports, airports, and utilities located along the coast and in the San Francisco Bay Area are required to report sea level rise planning information to the Natural Resources Agency biannually, including studies, models, maps, cost-benefit analyses, vulnerability assessments, and updates regarding adaptation projects,” Berman’s staff said in a statement about Brown’s signing of AB 184. “Collecting and making this data available is vital to our state’s ability to overcome challenges presented by sea level rise.”

Information within the database, which was created in 2014, would be used to help various agencies decide what action to take, if any, when attempting to address potential threats from sea level rise and climate change.

“Climate risks in California include sea level rise, changes in precipitation that increase the risk of both drought and flooding, and increases in temperatures that can affect air quality and habitat,” the latest Assembly analysis of the bill stated. “According to Ocean Protection Council (OPC), climate change has already caused 8 inches of sea level rise at the San Francisco tidal gauge and scientists project an additional 4 to 5.5 feet or more of rising sea levels by 2100, within the lifetime of children born today.

“These higher water levels amplify the flooding that occurs during El Niño periods and coastal storms. California is responding to these risks through various efforts,” the legislative analysis continued.

Maintaining the database through 2023 would cost about $65,000, according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The state’s climate adaptation strategy, known as Safeguarding California Plan, would also have to be updated as part of the database extension.

Climate change and sea level rise are already being addressed by several public agencies within the state. In August 2015 the California Coastal Commission adopted a Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance document, which, according to the Assembly’s legislative staff, “provides an overview of best available science on sea level rise for California and recommends steps for addressing sea level rise in [the commission’s] planning and regulatory actions.”

A legislative analysis of AB 184 identified sea level rise as one of California’s substantive climate risks.

“Two-thirds of Californians inhabit coastal regions, which means sea level rise will have a catastrophic impact on coastal communities, infrastructure, and the economy if left unaddressed,” Berman said. “AB 184 preserves a critical tool that is needed to provide an educated, coordinated, and effective response to sea level rise.”

AB 184 earned widespread support in both legislative houses before moving forward to the governor’s desk for signature. Assembly members approved the final version of AB 184, Sept. 5, by a 65-11 vote; the State Senate supported the bill by a 35-4 vote about one week earlier.

Parimal M. Rohit photo

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