Climate Ready Projects to Help Coastal Communities Adapt to Climate Change
On January 23 the Coastal Conservancy awarded more than $3 million for 20 Climate Ready projects to help California’s coastal communities prepare for the effects of a changing climate.
The projects are located from San Diego to Humboldt counties and will help communities adapt to rising seas, more severe storms, increased risk of fires, and changing rainfall levels and water availability. Several projects will also promote reduced emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and examine ways to remove those gasses from the atmosphere.
“Climate change is happening and its effects will be catastrophic if we’re not prepared,” said Sam Schuchat, the Conservancy’s executive officer. “Today’s efforts to prepare for climate change will pay massive dividends in the future.”
Ten of the projects are geared to helping shoreline areas adapt to sea level rise and prevent the destruction of homes, businesses, roadways, airports, sewage treatment plants, and other public facilities. A Los Angeles project will examine ways to protect its iconic beaches from rising seas and storm surges.
Five projects address changing rainfall patterns and expected water shortages. They will identify how stormwater may be captured and stored for later use, enabling urban areas and farming operations to become less reliant on imported water and reducing storm flows that pollute waterways and the ocean.
Grantees, amounts awarded, and descrptions of the projects, are as follows:
City of Imperial Beach, $300,000
The City of Imperial Beach will assess the vulnerability of its outer coast to sea level rise and identify adaptation strategies to protect natural areas and human communities. The study will analyze risks from flooding, storm surges, and erosion related to expected SLR and help the City develop plans for improved resilience. The work will complement similar studies for San Diego Bay/Otay River on the City’s northern boundary and Tijuana River and Estuary on its south.
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, $150,500
The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research will restore 25 acres of endangered coastal sage scrub habitat near the western shoreline of Lake Hodges. The restoration will increase the area’s resilience to expected effects of climate change by reducing the frequency of fires and providing a corridor for wildlife to migrate to more favorable climatic environments. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of fires in the area, and the restored habitat will be far less susceptible to fires than the non-native grasslands it will replace. The protected land surrounding Lake Hodges is an important wildlife corridor between the natural environments of coastal Del Mar and the rural mountains to the east.
Heal the Bay, $169,000
Heal the Bay, working with Green LA Coalition, will compile information on the benefits, costs, and feasibility of three Living Streets programs in the City of Los Angeles that address causes and expected effects of climate change. The three programs are Complete Streets, which encourages use of streets by bicycles, pedestrians, and public transit vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; Green Infrastructure, by which street designs and materials help capture rainwater for reuse and prevent its runoff; and Cool Streets, through which reflected materials embedded in asphalt reduce the absorption of solar heat and lower the surrounding temperature. The information will inform the City of the costs and benefits of Living Streets programs and help guide street maintenance and utility policies.
North East Trees, $160,600
The nonprofit organization North East Trees will work with Los Angeles County to transform a derelict two-acre parcel of land in the Highland Park area into a community park planted with drought-tolerant plants and native trees and containing features that capture and control stormwater runoff. The project site is owned by the City of Los Angeles and located between the Arroyo Seco and the 110 freeway. A primary purpose of the project is to demonstrate landscaping practices that can counter expected effects of climate change and reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The park will include a vegetated swale with river rocks, boulders, and native grasses that will trap pollutants from stormwater runoff and promote its infiltration into underground aquifers.
Council for Watershed Health, $150,000
The Council for Watershed Health will analyze the feasibility of large-scale capture of rainfall in the Los Angeles area and storing it in underground aquifers. Four large groundwater basins in the County with over one million acre-feet of additional capacity could potentially store the over 380,000 acre-feet (1.23 billion gallons) of rainfall that flows unimpeded to the ocean in an average year. Capture of a significant portion of this rainfall would augment local water supplies, reduce reliance on imported water, and help move the Los Angeles region toward water independence.
City of Hermosa Beach, $100,000
The City of Hermosa Beach will assess the vulnerability of the City’s infrastructure to sea level rise and identify adaptation strategies. The assessment will include monitoring of shallow groundwater levels and salinity to determine how future SLR is likely to affect sewage systems and stormwater management, water lines, utilities, and below-grade structures. Results of the assessment will be used to develop plans to prevent and manage floodwaters, protect against rising groundwater levels, and protect ocean water quality.
Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, $69,815
The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors will assess the vulnerability of the County’s coastal beaches to sea level rise and plan for their protection. The world-renowned beaches are immensely important to the region’s culture and economy, but rising seas and storm surges resulting from climate change threaten their continued existence. The County manages 17 beaches between Malibu and San Pedro that attract more than 50 million residents and visitors annually. The ultimate goal of the project is to prepare an adaptive management plan for those beaches with a range of strategies for their preservation.
County of Santa Barbara, $200,000
Santa Barbara County, working with the cities of Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta, will assess the vulnerability of the County’s southern shoreline to expected effects of climate change and identify adaptation strategies. The assessment will include modeling to determine potential damage from sea level rise, intensified storm events, flooding, and shoreline erosion. Existing studies indicate that climate change poses significant risks to communities, critical infrastructure, recreational facilities, beaches, and natural areas. The study will include an evaluation of how wetlands, reefs, and other natural buffers can fit into shoreline defenses.
The Nature Conservancy, $150,000
The Nature Conservancy will conduct a cost-benefit analysis of strategies for adapting to sea level rise in southern Monterey Bay. The study will build on a 2012 report analyzing coastal erosion mitigation strategies and a recently completed study funded by the Coastal Conservancy that examined future SLR effects at the parcel level. The new study will incorporate climate change effects into the 2012 study and refine its spatial focus. It will also make use of social surveys and economics to motivate communities to consider climate change in local planning and regulatory programs.
Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, $163,000
The Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, working with the University of Santa Cruz, will investigate ways to capture stormwater and store it in underground aquifers to improve the reliability of water supplies. Changing rainfall patterns resulting from climate change, including less frequent but more extreme storm events, are expected to strain the County’s ability to supply water for residential and commercial use. Although construction of new surface reservoirs in the County has been deemed infeasible, it may be possible to significantly improve the capture of rainwater in underground aquifers. The study will analyze past, present, and projected runoff patterns to identify potential sites for underground water storage. Knowledge derived from the study is expected to be applicable to other regions of the State.
Sempervirens Fund, $100,000
The Sempervirens Fund will investigate the feasibility of establishing a carbon bank for the Santa Cruz Mountains region that would provide an economic incentive to landowners for the protection of redwoods as an alternative to logging or development. Coast redwoods store considerable amounts of carbon and, in doing so, remove vast amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Through the sale of carbon credits, owners of forested lands in California can profit by protecting redwoods, but the development, verification, and monitoring costs of carbon offset projects can be very high. Aggregating many small properties could potentially achieve an economy of scale that would make a carbon bank economically viable for the small landowners that make up most of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
San Francisco International Airport , $200,000
The San Francisco International Airport will convene a multi-agency working group to study the vulnerability of a shoreline area northwest of the airport to sea level rise and prepare adaptation strategies. The area, where San Bruno and Colma creeks meet the bay, contains residential neighborhoods that have been subject to severe flooding, habitat for threatened and endangered species, and substantial public infrastructure including two major highways, Caltrain and BART lines, the San Francisco Bay Trail, two sanitary sewage treatment plants, and multiple flood control channels and pump stations. The study will complement the airport’s SFO Shoreline Protection Feasibility Study, whose purpose is to develop a shoreline protection system that will protect the airport from flooding and rising seas.
San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, $200,000
The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority will design a pilot project to protect against flooding of a portion of the Bayfront Expressway (State Highway 84) between the Dumbarton Bridge and Ravenswood Slough. The project will incorporate restoration of wildlife habitat in adjacent former salt ponds as part of the flood-control measures, and the design will also provide for closing a gap in the San Francisco Bay Trail. Information from the project will be used to design similar flood-control/habitat-restoration projects needed in the area.
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, $63,000
The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council will work with the San Francisco Bay Trail Project to examine how public hiking and biking trails, together with mass transit, can most effectively be managed to reduce car usage and emissions of greenhouse gases. The study will focus on the South Bay Trail network, which includes the San Francisco Bay Trail, Ridge Trail, and several creek trails, and enlist the support of local governments, major companies, and others already involved in transportation management programs.
East Bay Dischargers Authority, $200,000
The East Bay Dischargers Authority will study strategies for changes to regional wastewater discharge that would protect facilities from sea level rise and potentially use treated wastewater to enhance the growth of wetlands vegetation. The study will examine the costs and benefits of decentralizing discharge facilities, many of which are currently vulnerable to rising seas. It will also look at the possible use of treated but nutrient-rich wastewater in wetlands to build shoreline buffers and capture and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
City of Benicia, $150,000
The City of Benicia will assess the vulnerability to rising seas of shoreline and community assets including shoreline parks and trails, the Port of Benicia, the Benicia Industrial Park, and wildlife habitats. The City will then create an adaptation plan to mitigate risks identified by the assessment. The City’s goals are to better prepare the community to deal with future effects of climate change, to focus on how to make a key City asset–the Industrial Park–more resilient to climate change, and to evaluate how to integrate adaptation planning into City governance.
Marin Resource Conservation District, $200,000
The Marin Resource Conservation District will develop projects on three local farms to demonstrate management techniques that can decrease atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and methane, both potent greenhouse gases. The techniques are being developed through the Marin Carbon Project and will be based on improved methods to capture and sequester carbon in vegetation and soils. Widespread adaptation of the techniques could have a significant effect on surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, much of which comes from working lands management practices.
Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, $166,708
The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District will help farmers and fish in western Sonoma County adjust to expected changes in rainfall patterns and water availability resulting from climate change. The expected changes include an extended and warmer dry season and a compressed rainy season that will threaten water supplies for farmers and habitats for salmon and steelhead trout. The RCD will design large-scale rainwater catchment and storage systems for five farming operations as demonstration projects and install structures within streams to make their habitats more resilient to climate change.
Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority, $100,000
The Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority will assess the vulnerability of North Bay lands to effects of climate change and identify ways to deal with those effects. The assessment will include analysis of expected changes in temperature, rainfall, water flows, and risks of fire and flooding. The work will be done in partnership with several local government agencies and private organizations and cover lands in Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, and Napa counties.
City of Arcata, $86,000
The City of Arcata will develop tools and programs to protect against rising sea levels that threaten shoreline lands and facilities, including the wastewater treatment plant. The City will design a 22-acre “living shorelines” area on Arcata Bay to serve as a buffer against rising seas, investigate how private landowners might be enlisted for additional protection, and evaluate the potential of more than 900 acres of planned and existing marshlands to sequester greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.