Study: California’s Coast Highly Vulnerable To Sea Level Rise But Coastal Habitats Could Still Make It, If We Act
55% of current coastal habitat area in California could be lost to rising seas
San francisco, CA — A new study from The Nature Conservancy and the California State Coastal Conservancy, Conserving California’s Coastal Habitat: A Legacy and a Future with Sea Level Rise finds that most of the total area of California’s coastal habitats, including beaches, marshes, and rocky intertidal areas famous for tide pools, are highly vulnerable to sea level rise. However, the study also provides a roadmap for California on how to take action so there will be as much coastal habitat statewide as there is today, even in the face of sea level rise and other stressors.
This study is the first of its kind to assess the sea level rise vulnerability of all coastal habitats along the entire coast of California, including the San Francisco Bay and Delta. Some habitats are more vulnerable than others. For example, beaches at the base of cliffs may be drowned by the ocean, habitats surrounded by developed land may not have the room they need to move inland as sea levels rise. But, with proper planning, other locations that aren’t coastal habitat today could be conserved and adapted to become habitat in the future. The report is also the first to provide scientists and planners a set of strategies to adapt areas up and down the coast so that habitat lost to sea level rise in one location can be reestablished somewhere else.
Without taking action, the prognosis is troubling. The study quantifies the vulnerability of 40 different habitat types, finding that 55% of current habitat by total area across the state is highly vulnerable to five feet of sea level rise. That includes 60% of California’s iconic beaches, 58% of rocky intertidal habitat, 58% of marshes, and 55% of tidal flats. In addition, sea level rise will further stress populations of 39 rare, threatened, or endangered species, and 41,000 acres of public conservation lands are projected to be drowned by subtidal waters.
“It’s no secret that sea level rise will impact our coastline and coastal habitats, but now we know how much and where,” said Sarah Newkirk, Senior Coastal Project Director at The Nature Conservancy. “Our science shows that if we take purposeful action now, there is reason to think our children and grandchildren could still have California beaches and healthy coastal habitats to enjoy just as we do today.”
The study highlights key conservation strategies that would allow California to maintain much of its coastal habitat into the future and maps where these actions might be most usefully deployed, providing on-the ground guidance for regional planners, agencies, land-managers, conservationists, and other stakeholders.
These actions include:
- Maintaining existing protected coastal habitats that are already resilient to sea level rise
- Protecting resilient coastal habitats that are not yet managed for conservation
- Helping some vulnerable habitats keep pace with rising water by adding sediments
- Conserving and adapting some non-habitat areas to habitat as sea level rises
- Adapting vulnerable human infrastructure like roads and bridges to allow habitats to move inland or natural processes to be maintained
Maintaining a healthy coast preserves the services coastal habitats provide for people such as protection from storm surges and rising seas, improved water quality, carbon storage, fisheries and recreation.
“For the first time, we have a clear picture of just how vulnerable California’s coastal habitats are to sea level rise,” said Mary Small, Deputy Executive Officer for the State Coastal Conservancy. “Californians treasure our coast, and this report highlights the urgency of implementing forward-looking strategies to protect these precious resources.”
Conserving California’s Coastal Habitat is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and California State Coastal Conservancy more than two years in the making. It adds to an existing body of California-specific vulnerability analyses, which are often regionally focused and/or mainly consider aspects of human vulnerability. The assessment will be used to guide future work at both The Nature Conservancy and the State Coastal Conservancy to maintain and improve upon California’s legacy of conservation investment along the coast and will provide state agencies and other stakeholders with the science foundation necessary to make the decisions today that protect the values of the coast for tomorrow.
The study can be found here: http://coastalresilience.org/coastalassessment
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.
The California State Coastal Conservancy is a bond funded State agency established in 1976 to protect and improve natural lands and waterways, help people access and enjoy the outdoors, and sustain local economies along the length of California’s coast and around San Francisco Bay. www.scc.ca.gov
June 2 is National Trails Day on the California Coastal Trail
Saturday, June 2, 2018, is National Trails Day! We hope you’ll celebrate the day on the California Coastal Trail. The CCT has something for everyone, from sandy beaches to windswept bluffs. It’s a great spot for a hike or a stroll, or just to enjoy the view.
You can find trail information and maps on the Coastwalk page here: http://www.californiacoastaltrail.info/cms/pages/main/index.html And some great inspiration in the KCET series of short films on trail segments here: https://www.kcet.org/shows/california-coastal-trail
We invite our partners to plan events along the California Coastal Trail for National Trails Day. The American Hiking Society has compiled resources to help plan and promote events, available here: https://americanhiking.org/national-trails-day/host-information/
You can also register your event with the American Hiking Society so more people can find it!
If you do plan an event, email us on email@example.com so we can help spread the word on our social media channels.
And tag #ExploreTheCoast and #NationalTrailsDay to promote and share your adventure!
Have fun on the California Coastal Trail!
Events along the California Coastal Trail for National Trails Day:
Half Moon Bay – Join the Coastside Land Trust at the Seymour Bridge located south of the Poplar Beach parking lot at the west end of Poplar Street in Half Moon Bay. We will introduce you to the Coastal Trail Phase II through Wavecrest to Redondo Beach Road. Contact: 650-726. 5056 firstname.lastname@example.org coastsidelandtrust.org
Imperial Beach – Join the San Diego National Wildlife Refuges in strolling the Bayside Birding & Walking Trail, on San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy and a part of the California Coastal Trail, this trail is a special one to celebrate. Come find out why! While you’re there, check out the new migratory bird mural on the “Flamingo Trail” facing the refuge. Total mileage is 1 mile (1/2-mile down, and 1/2-mile back). Bring binoculars if you have them, and be sure to wear a hat/visor for sun protection. We will provide extra binoculars and spotting scopes. Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/438836693241246/
Coastal Conservancy Approves $7.6 million in Grants for Restoration, Protection and Access
Today, the Board of the State Coastal Conservancy approved 20 grants totaling over $7.6 million for restoration, protection and public access projects along the California coast.
“Yet again our Board has shown that public money is a powerful force to catalyze and implement projects that protect habitats, enhance communities’ resilience and create public access to the coast.” said Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of the Coastal Conservancy. “The funding approved today flows to projects in nearly every coastal county, and these projects will benefit all Californians as well as visitors.”
Included in the approvals were:
- Authorization to disburse up to $825,000 to Alameda County Water District to build two fish ladders on lower Alameda Creekthat will enable steelhead trout to migrate to miles of available spawning and rearing habitat in the Alameda Creek Watershed.
- Authorization to disburse up to $1,087,000 to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County for the innovative Integrated Watershed Restoration Programto design and permit multiple coastal watershed restoration projects in San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties.
- Authorization to disburse up to $1,511,462 to The Wildlands Conservancy to implement the Eel River Estuary and Centerville Slough Enhancement Project, which will significantly advance ecosystem restoration and agricultural preservation in the Eel River Delta in Humboldt County.
- Authorization to disburse up to $381,120 to the Solano Resource Conservation District to enhance wildlife habitat, construct visitor amenities and provide opportunities for students to learn about the local environment at Lake DalwigkDetention Basin in the city of Vallejo, Solano County.
- Authorization to disburse up to a total $594,435 to the City of Encinitas to fund construction of four acres of beach dunes and a footpath along the dunes, and support a scientific monitoring at Cardiff State Beachin the County of San Diego.
A full list of projects approved today can be found here: http://scc.ca.gov/2018/03/08/coastal-conservancy-public-meeting-in-oakland-march-22/
Request for Partnership Proposals/Letters of Interest for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program
The California State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy) seeks partners for joint applications for coastal wetlands acquisition and/or restoration projects on the California coast or in San Francisco Bay to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 round of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) National Coastal Wetlands Conservation (NCWC) Grant Program. Only designated state agencies, including the Conservancy, are eligible to apply for NCWC grants. However, the Conservancy can work in partnership with state and local agencies, tribes, and certain non-profits to develop and submit NCWC proposals. The Conservancy can pass through NCWC grant funds to its partners to implement projects. While federal agencies can’t receive NCWC grant funds, NCWC-funded projects can be implemented on federal lands.
If your project is selected, the Conservancy will work with you to prepare a NCWC grant proposal, which may or may not be awarded funding by the USFWS. The Conservancy will not award state funding grants directly through this solicitation. The USFWS selects proposals for award through a merit-based, national competitive review process. The deadline to submit NCWC proposals to the USFWS for FY 2019 has not been set, but is expected to be in mid- to late June 2018. If projects are awarded a NCWC grant, funding will be available for implementation as early as Spring 2019. USFWS will need to meet its project-related environmental compliance requirements before making funding available. A full description of the NCWC program can be found here: https://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/
NCWC provides grants of up to $1,000,000 for the protection and/or restoration of coastal wetlands. Grants are for project implementation, although it is permissible to utilize a small amount (~15%) of the grant for biological surveys or monitoring, planning and permitting if those activities are closely tied to implementation. Projects should be ready for implementation in Summer 2019 or 2020. Projects will be more competitive if the project area is primarily made up of jurisdictional wetlands. The NCWC grant program requires a non-federal match of at least 25% of the total project cost, consisting of either cash or in-kind contributions, and additional points are awarded for match of up to 33% of the total project cost. The Conservancy may be able to provide some or all of the required match, but project partners with their own match will increase the Conservancy’s capacity to carry out more projects. The NCWC program also prioritizes projects that involve multiple partners providing a cash or in-kind contribution. All projects must ensure long-term (at least 20 years) conservation of coastal resources.
Eligible Activities include:
1. Acquisition of a real property interest (e.g., conservation easement or fee title) in coastal lands or waters (coastal wetlands ecosystems) from willing sellers or partners for long-term conservation;
2. Restoration, enhancement, or management of coastal wetlands ecosystems; or
3. A combination of acquisition, restoration, and management.
Ineligible Activities include, but are not limited to:
1. Projects that primarily benefit navigation, irrigation, flood control, or mariculture;
2. Acquisition, restoration, enhancement or management of lands required as the result of a regulatory or decision-making process to mitigate habitat losses;
3. Creation of wetlands where wetlands did not previously exist;
4. Enforcement of fish and wildlife laws and regulations, except when necessary for the accomplishment of approved project purposes;
6. Planning as a primary project focus;
7. Operations and maintenance, including long-term invasive species management;
8. Acquisition and/or restoration of upper portions of watersheds where benefits to the coastal wetlands ecosystem are not significant and direct; and
9. Projects providing less than 20 years of conservation benefits.
More information about NCWC grants, including the FY 2018 Notice of Funding Opportunity, is available here: https://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/ Note that the FY 2019 Notice of Funding Opportunity for the NCWC program has not yet been released.
Letter of Interest Submittal: To indicate your interest in partnering with the Conservancy on a NCWC proposal, please submit a brief (~2-4 page) letter of interest via email to email@example.com. The letter should include the following information: 1) 1-2 sentence summary of proposed project, 2) description of the need for the project, 3) description of the proposed project and how it addresses the need, 4) estimated project cost and description of potential match, 5) approximate timeline for project implementation (include information of the status of project design and environmental review for restoration projects), 6) indicate whether you have a willing seller for acquisition projects, and 7) list of potential project partners and their roles in the project. Include a map showing the project area and providing the approximate acreage of the project area and acreage of coastal wetlands within the project area. Letters of Interest must be received by 5 PM PST on February 14th, 2018.
Eligible Applicants: Non-federal public agencies, tribes, and certain nonprofit organizations are eligible for funding. To be eligible, a nonprofit organization must qualify under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and its articles of incorporation must demonstrate that the organization’s purposes are consistent with Division 21 of the Public Resources Code, the Coastal Conservancy’s enabling legislation.
Questions: Questions about the application process and potential projects may be directed to Joel Gerwein, External Grants Manager, 510-286-4170, Joel.Gerwein@scc.ca.gov
Start the New Year with a First Day Hike
First Day Hikes encourage people to start the new year in the great outdoors. On January 1, get out for a walk to connect with nature, enjoy open spaces and get some fresh air.
In California, our magnificent coastline is a terrific public resource to explore on January 1 and everyday. Whether you find a stretch of the California Coastal Trail to hike or just make the journey from the parking lot to the waves, we want all Californians to explore the coast.
Share a photo or a selfie of your First Day Hike with the hashtags #FirstDayHikes and #ExploreTheCoast to share your adventure!
The Coastal Conservancy California Coastal Trail page
California Coastal Trail information from CoastWalk, including trail maps
California Coastal Trail video segments
Coastal Commission YourCoast webapp
California State Parks First Day Hikes resources and events
First Day Hiking Tips from the American Hiking Society
Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California
New Case Studies show potential of nature-based infrastructure to mitigate sea level rise.
Sea level rise and associated flooding will threaten nearly $100 billion worth of property along the California coast by 2100, and there is no question that coastal landowners and planners will act to protect their assets from these losses. In the absence of compelling reasons or guidance to do otherwise, they will overwhelmingly default to the industry standard – specifically, the construction of coastal armoring (seawalls, revetments, dikes, and levees).
Dunes at Surfers Point
One alternative to coastal armoring is natural infrastructure, which has been shown to be a cost-effective approach to mitigating risk of floods, storms and sea level rise in many places. Natural infrastructure enhances the ability of natural systems to respond to sea level rise and migrate landward, ensuring their survival. In turn, these systems provide co-benefits for coastal communities: coastal ecosystems can serve as protective buffers against sea level rise and storm events while continuing to provide access, recreation opportunities, and other social benefits.
In spite of the well-known advantages of natural infrastructure, property owners continue to default to coastal armoring to protect their assets. There are a number of obstacles in deploying natural infrastructure that result in this preference for coastal armoring, but among them is a documented lack of familiarity with what natural infrastructure is and how it works.
Ironically, California already has numerous examples of natural infrastructure at work! In order to fill this awareness gap, a team of experts from The Nature Conservancy, Point Blue Conservation Science, Environmental Science Associates, the State Coastal Conservancy, and the NOAA Sentinel Site Cooperative have released a report with detailed case studies of coastal natural infrastructure in action. These projects, ranging from sediment augmentation in Seal Beach to dune restoration in Humboldt, are designed to give coastal managers a sense of the breadth of approaches to coastal adaptation and what it takes to plan, permit, implement, and monitor them.
Five projects that spanned the California coast and represented different coastal settings and corresponding approaches were selected for the purposes of this report:
- Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge Thin-layer Salt Marsh Sediment Augmentation Pilot Project
- Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project
- San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines: Nearshore Linkages Project
- Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project
- Humboldt Coastal Dune Vulnerability and Adaptation Climate Ready Project
The case studies investigation was conducted as a component of “Identification of Natural Infrastructure Options for Adapting to Sea Level Rise,” a project under California’s Fourth Climate Assessment.
Read the full report: Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California
A Coast For All of Us Webinar Recordings and Materials
As economic inequality grows in California, the beach is one space that is truly for everyone. But are all Californians able to access the coast in the same way?
In the summer and early fall of 2017, the Coastal Conservancy held a 2-part webinar on coastal access in California. Below are the recordings and materials from both parts.
Webinar Recording: A Coast For All of Us
PART 1 | PART 2
Presentation slides and supplemental reports
Adam Probolsky – Coastal Conservancy Statewide Survey // PART 1 | PART 2
Jon Christensen – Access for All: A New Generation’s Challenges on the California Coast // Presentation | Report
David Kordus – PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Environment
Upcoming Webinar: Designing Outdoor Environments that work for Everybody
Friday, May 4, 1:30-3 pm
Tim Gilbert, a landscape architect and access specialist with MIG, will provide information about designing outdoor environments that work for everybody. The Coastal Conservancy supports efforts by public agencies and nonprofits to increase access to natural areas.
Accessible trails are everyone’s trails
Join us to learn more about incorporating ADA into your planning processes for outdoor facilities and recreation, some information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and specific design guidelines and standards for trails, trailheads, campsites, beach access, boating facilities, piers, docks, and more.
To attend the webinar, please register in advance at:
SCC Public Comment on Dept. of Interior Review of National Monuments
The Department of the Interior is currently reviewing the status of 27 national monuments and has solicited public comments as part of this process. The State Coastal Conservancy has issued the statement below, encouraging Secretary Zinke to leave these protected public lands intact. Learn more about the review and leave a comment of your own here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001
On behalf of the California State Coastal Conservancy, the agency charged with protection and restoration of California’s coastline and coastal watersheds, I urge you to leave the 27 national monuments currently under review intact. These monuments are of great cultural and ecological significance, and they are public lands treasured by millions of Americans.
In California, the San Gabriel Mountains are vital to the quality of life of Los Angeles residents. These soaring mountains are a space to hike, play, ski and camp. They comprise 70% of the open space available to Angelenos and supply 30% of the city’s drinking water. They are also one of the only substantial natural spaces available to many of the urban, diverse and historically underserved communities in Los Angeles.
Berryessa Snow Mountain is the headwaters of the Eel River, California’s third largest river system, and an important salmon and steelhead trout watershed enjoyed by many for recreation and fishing.
America’s public lands are national treasure and should be protected as such. I ask that you consider the many benefits these monuments deliver to their local communities, to fragile ecosystems and to the fabric of our great country in your review.
California State Coastal Conservancy
News Release: Coast is personally important to 90% of all Californians; 70% wish they could go more often
New research commissioned by the California State Coastal Conservancy has found that 89.3% of all Californian adults agree that the coast is personally important to them, and 68.9% wish they could visit more often.
“This research shows us that Californians love the coast, regardless of where they live, how often they visit or who they are.” said Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of the State Coastal Conservancy. “Over 20 million Californian adults go to the beach at least once a year. Even though 30% of Californians haven’t been within the last year, the overwhelming majority of us still feel a personal connection to coast. It also showed that over 94% of Californians agree that people of all backgrounds are welcome at the coast – the coast truly is for everyone.”
The study was a live-interviewer telephone survey conducted by Probolsky Research designed to give the Conservancy a detailed understanding of Californians’ relationships to the coast and the barriers that prevent more people from visiting.
“Our survey found that most people don’t get to the coast as often as they would like because they are too busy.” continued Schuchat. “Over 60% of respondents said that lack of time was a barrier to them visiting the coast more often. Traffic and transportation issues were the next most frequently stated barriers; 25% of people surveyed said it stopped them from visiting. 10% said financial concerns were the reason they didn’t go to the coast, and just over 5% said parking was too difficult or expensive. Cost, however, is the top reason that people do not stay overnight at the coast with over 45% of respondents saying overnight accommodations are inconvenient or unaffordable.
“This new research reaffirms the importance of the coast to Californians, but also gives us new insight into some of the reasons people aren’t able to use our beaches and shorelines as much as they want to. Historically, we have focused on solving problems in the last 100 feet of a trip to the coast – accessways, parking, shoreline restoration – this survey indicates that to get more Californians to our beaches, we also need to work towards making it quicker, easier and more convenient to get to and from the coast. And we can do more to ensure Californians are familiar with the full breadth of coastal resources throughout the state and how to access them. None of these issues exist in isolation, however, and we will continue our work to develop low cost accommodation, expand accessways and keep California’s coast safe, clean and healthy.”
The full research presentation can be found here
A fact sheet on the findings can be found here