Standing Watch

Underwater? California summit hopes to address sea level rise

Plenty of policymakers and thought leaders will be chatting about the prospect of rising waters, but are boaters included in discussion?

STATEWIDE — A lakeside marina in Northern California (a few miles west of Redding) was among the many structures lost to the raging Carr Fire. Other marinas in Southern California could be lost, too, but to rising oceans (if the sea level rise predictions come true). Thought leaders and policymakers will descend upon San Francisco in a few weeks to discuss sea level rise and climate change at the Global Climate Action Summit.

It’s unclear whether the summit would be dominated by talking heads touting doomsday scenarios or pushing for the United States to sign back onto the Paris Climate Agreement. Just as unclear is whether attendees and conveners will develop substantive direction on sea level rise and its potential effect on the boating world. Organizers, however, are positioning the summit, which takes place Sept. 12-14, as bringing world leaders together to celebrate platitudes on climate action.

The California Coastal Commission discussed sea level rise at its August meetings in Redondo Beach. Coastal Commission staff stated the summit would emphasize the need to address climate matters such as sea level rise. Several Southern California jurisdictions are already working on plans to protect coastlines, marinas and other areas adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Potentially complementing those efforts was the resolution commissioners reviewed and discussed on July 9.

“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 a report to commissioners.

“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,” Coastal Commission staff continued. “These impacts will be disproportionately felt by people who cannot afford to live in close proximity to the ocean to access and recreate along the coast.”

California’s Ocean Protection Council adopted a similar resolution on July 25.

The Global Climate Action Summit itself functions as a disruptive event, as organizers are seeking entrepreneurial proposals to address some of the environmental challenges people along the coast could face if predicted doomsday scenarios actually become reality. What would happen, for example, if the sea walls of Newport Beach can’t defend locals from the rising seas? Could marinas in San Pedro, Wilmington and Long Beach be submerged? What about similar venues at Glorietta Bay in Coronado or Harbor Island in San Diego?

Officials at the Port of San Diego have made a case for being proactive. Port district staff, in previous coverage in The Log, made case for taking action today to prevent predicted doomsday scenarios of the not-too-distant future. Harbors and marinas do not have to suffer from predicted sea level rise if proper action is enacted now and consistently implemented moving forward.

An article published by Quartz on July 25, however, made an interesting case for retreat as the best-case solution to sea level rise.

“The seas will only continue to rise. Coastal communities in the U.S. can expect waters anywhere from 2.5 feet to 10 feet higher by 2100,” the Quartz article stated. “For coastal communities in places like Florida, Louisiana, California, New York, and Maine, that gloomy future is already here.”

One community – a Native American tribe on Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles – was cited as an example of a gloomy present. The tribe was awarded a federal grant after it decided to abandon the island and resettle further inland.

Stories like this one makes one wonder whether Quartzsite Yacht Club in Western Arizona would become an actual destination for boaters if harbors in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego fall victim to sea level rise.

Of course there are those who argue sea level rise is nothing more than speculation and we really won’t experience a 2.5 to 10 feet increase in water levels by 2100. Who knows, maybe the science doesn’t prove true. Perhaps the situation would play out exactly as anticipated. The ultimate question is what sensible actions should we be pursuing today to protect our marinas and harbors, regardless of how extreme some climate change predictions might be.


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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

Here are a few people you can contact to find out more about the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit. Ask them about potential policies or game plans they have to address sea level rise or coastal flooding. What actions are being implemented to address failing infrastructure, such as aging sea walls in Long Beach and Newport Beach? Who is advocating for retreat? Are members of the boating industry being consulted by the Coastal Commission, Ocean Protection Commission or Global Climate Action Summit attendees when contemplating future policies on sea level rise? Who is advocating for boaters?

California Coastal Commission

John Ainsworth, Executive Director

Dayna Bochco

Effie Turnbull-Sanders, California Coastal Commission Vice-Chair


Port of San Diego

Port President and CEO Randa Coniglio

Commissioner Rafael Castellanos

Commissioner Ann Moore

Commissioner Robert “Dukie” Valderrama

Commissioner Marshall Merrifield

Commissioner Garry Bonelli

Commissioner Dan Malcolm

Commissioner Michael Zucchet


Fish and Game Commission

Valerie Termini, Executive Director


Department of Parks and Recreation

Lisa Mangat, Director