The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is pleased to announce the release of a solicitation for projects that build resilience on the coast to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of sea-level rise. Specific project types include research-based projects that focus on coastal habitat mapping, contaminated sites, and socio-economic impacts, and implementation projects that work to provide resilience to climate change through restoration and/or habitat enhancement. … read more
In response to increasing concern about pervasive and persistent pollution caused by microplastics, California has prepared a first-of-its-kind Statewide Microplastics Strategy that recommends early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment. The Strategy follows the direction of Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino), which was signed into law in 2018 and is scheduled for adoption by the Ocean Protection Council at its Wednesday, Feb. 23 meeting.
University of Toronto / Tsui, N.
Essential to California’s Microplastic Strategy is the recognition that decisive, precautionary action to reduce microplastic pollution must be taken now, such as taking comprehensive action to reduce single-use plastics and other top sources of marine litter, while scientific knowledge and understanding of microplastics sources, impacts, and successful reduction measures continue to grow. Plastics are ubiquitous in both our daily lives and in the environment. Worldwide, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and without any intervention, this amount is anticipated to triple by 2040. Over time, plastics break down in aquatic environments into pieces of ever-decreasing size, with those less than 5 mm in size known as microplastics.
Microplastics are easily ingested by marine life, causing harm such as tissue inflammation, impaired growth, developmental anomalies, and reproductive difficulties. Microplastics have also been found in human stool, lung, and placenta samples, indicating the potential for human health impacts, and within soils and plants.
Research in California has identified tire and road wear, synthetic textiles, cigarette filters and single-use plastic foodware as among the top identified sources of microplastics in California bay and ocean waters, sediment, and fish tissue.
The Statewide Microplastics Strategy sets a multi-year roadmap for California to take a national and global leadership role in managing microplastics pollution. The Strategy outlines a two-track approach to comprehensively manage microplastic pollution: the first track lists immediate, no regrets actions and multi-benefit solutions to reduce and manage microplastic pollution, and the second track outlines a comprehensive research strategy to enhance the scientific understanding of microplastics in California and inform future action.
Photo courtesy National Science Foundation/SCR #193528
- Pollution Prevention: Eliminate plastic waste at the source (products or materials from which microplastics originate).
- Pathway Interventions: Intervene within specific pathways (ex: stormwater runoff, wastewater, aerial deposition) that mobilize microplastics into California waters.
- Outreach & Education: Engage and inform the public and industries of microplastic sources, impacts, and solutions.
Science to Inform Future Action
- Monitoring: Understand and identify trends of microplastic pollution statewide.
- Risk Thresholds & Assessment: Improve understanding of impacts to aquatic life and human health.
- Sources & Pathways Prioritization: Identify & prioritize future management solutions based on local data.
- Evaluating New Solutions: Develop and implement future solutions.
The public is invited to participate in the Feb. 23 meeting. Agenda and instructions on joining can be found here.
Photo by Andy Dingley
In California offshore waters, sustained northwesterly winds have been identified as a key energy resource which could contribute substantially to California’s renewable energy mandate (Senate Bill 100). These winds drive the upwelling of deeper, cool, nutrient-rich waters that sustains a thriving ecosystem. The development of large-scale offshore wind energy projects has the potential to reduce the wind stress at the sea surface, which could have local and/or regional implications on California wind-driven upwelling, nutrient delivery, and ecosystem dynamics.
This preliminary study, with funding from the California Energy Commission and OPC, evaluated the effects of offshore wind turbines in the Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon, and Humboldt Call Areas. The study is ongoing and in preparation for peer-review. The preliminary findings for Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon found that modest changes to wind speeds are found in the lee of wind farms (approximately 5 percent reduction), which leads to an a decrease in upwelled physical volume transport to the coastal zone. However, the Diablo Canyon Call Area is no longer being pursued so the findings are not applicable to the current Morro Bay Call Area. Since the effect of this decrease on the ecosystem was not evaluated in this study, no conclusions on ecosystem effects can be drawn from the modeled physical changes.
While changes are also observed near the Humboldt Call Area, they are substantially smaller than those seen near Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon. Future work will explore impacts to upwelling under various turbine configurations, layouts and turbine densities, while also evaluating upwelling impacts from offshore wind development in the face of climate change.
Coastal flooding across the United States coastline will increase significantly over the next 30 years, according to Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, a new report by an interagency sea level rise task force including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal agencies. The report forecasts sea level rise to the year 2150 and projects that sea levels along U.S. coastlines will rise between 10 to 12 inches on average above today’s levels by 2050. The Ocean Protection Council will use this latest science to update California’s 2018 Sea Level Rise Guidance in 2023.
The report offers four key takeaways:
- The Next 30 Years of Sea Level Rise: Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10-to-12-inches in the next 30 years, which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 – 2020). Sea level rise will vary regionally along U.S. coasts because of changes in both land and ocean height.
- More Damaging Flooding Projected: Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland. By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors.
- Emissions Matter: Current and future emissions matter. About two feet of sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5-to-5 feet of rise for a total of 3.5-to-7 feet by the end of this century.
- Continual Tracking: Continuously tracking how and why sea level is changing is an important part of informing plans for adaptation. Our ability to monitor and understand the individual factors that contribute to sea level rise allows us to track sea level changes in a way that has never before been possible (e.g., using satellites to track global ocean levels and ice sheet thickness). Ongoing and expanded monitoring will be critical as sea levels continue to rise.
Fortunately, California is investing to protect our most vulnerable communities, save our beaches and build coastal resilience:
- Sea Level Rise California: Find out more about how sea level rise is expected to impact California at the California Natural Resources Agency’s “The Ocean is Moving In” website.
- Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries: This video series goes on location to tell the stories of where and how California is helping promote climate resilience on the coast in the face of rising seas.
- Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action: California state agencies with coastal, bay, and shoreline climate resilience responsibilities, including for coastal infrastructure and Californians’ safety, have endorsed a set of Principles for Aligned State Action. These Principles will guide unified, effective action toward sea-level rise resilience for California’s coastal communities, ecosystems and economies.
Find the Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States and accompanying FAQ here, and explore the Interagency Sea Level Rise Scenario Tool here.
“As we look to 2022, our goal at the agency is to… continue California’s global leadership, combating climate change, transitioning our economy, and protecting our people and nature in the meantime. I believe strongly that people are resilient and that nature is resilient. We can adapt and weather these changes we are experiencing right now, and we at the Natural Resources Agency and across state government are focused on strengthening the resilience of our communities, our residents, and of our natural places to these changes we are experiencing. I’m optimistic that we will work harder than ever before and make unprecedented process toward building this resilience.” – from California Natural Resources Secretary and Ocean Protection Council Chair Wade Crowfoot’s end of the year video message
As 2021 brought global challenges to the forefront, the state of California responded with bold, decisive actions to protect our coast and ocean. OPC staff led multiple projects designed to restore wetlands, improve water quality, prevent plastic pollution, respond to environmental justice inequities, promote sustainable fisheries, protect marine wildlife and build resilience to climate change.
Despite the many looming threats, we continue to find hope in the form of scientific solutions to the planet’s biggest problems and in the promising work done by our grantees on the front lines. Join us in celebrating specific achievements from the past year below: … read more
OPC is pleased to release the draft Statewide Microplastics Strategy, which outlines a statewide research strategy and recommended early actions to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment, consistent with Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino, 2018).
We welcome feedback on this draft Strategy.
Public comment should be submitted to OPCmicroplastics@resources.ca.gov by 5:00 pm on January 21, 2022.
A revised draft, based on public comment, is anticipated to be released in February 2022 for consideration by the Ocean Protection Council at its February 23, 2022 meeting. Questions can be directed to OPC’s Water Quality Program Manager, Kaitlyn Kalua at Kaitlyn.Kalua@resources.ca.gov.
At its December 7 meeting, the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) for the first time approved funding exclusively for coastal water quality projects that directly benefit Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities. A total of $7.5M in Proposition 1 funds will be disbursed to six projects that support multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection or restoration, habitat enhancement, resilience to climate change and community engagement.
While OPC regularly funds important ocean- and coast-related projects throughout the state, this is the Council’s first time soliciting projects that provide direct benefits to state-defined disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities, California Native American tribes, and communities that score above 80 percent on CalEnviroScreen results.
Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency and OPC Chair Wade Crowfoot commended the state’s investment in the proposed community-driven projects, saying, “This effort is a really powerful model for how the state can prioritize funding that more effectively advances both natural resources protection and environmental justice.”
OPC Wetlands Program Manager Maria Rodriguez agreed. “This is OPC’s first step in accomplishing a dedicated pathway for funding EJ communities and projects that put community benefits at the forefront and emphasize social and economic benefits,” she said. “These are elements that OPC is working to incorporate into other funding opportunities to ensure community benefits are meaningful, direct and can be delivered through projects or programs OPC is leading.”
Funded projects span California’s coastline
… read more
“The technical sea level rise studies we’ve completed to-date have shown the coastal hazard impacts we can expect in the coming decades – and that gives us the ability to share that information with the people who are going to be directly affected. That’s crucial because public awareness and understanding of these hazards is critical if we’re going to be able plan effectively for the future.” – Julia Elkin
Today we are Stinson Beach, located on the scenic Marin County coastline, talking with Julia Elkin, the Project Manager on this Prop 68 Project to develop and deliver a community adaptation planning process for Stinson Beach that addresses existing and future coastal hazard impacts and sea-level rise.
Located about an hour north of San Francisco, Stinson Beach is a highly valued California beach to both residents and visitors. Many Californians visit Stinson Beach for relief during extreme heat events or poor air quality days. Stinson Beach has immense value – and it is highly vulnerable to sea level rise. “Our opportunity now is to work with the public and plan for that slow-moving emergency that is sea level rise because the decisions that we can make now help us plan for a future that meets our community values and reduces harm to both our natural systems and human communities,” says Elkin.
Challenges with coastal erosion, flooding and storm surges are not new to Stinson Beach. That said, climate change will only exacerbate the intensity and frequency of these coastal hazards. Adaptation responses that will be explored through the Stinson Beach Adaptation and Resilience Collaboration, or Stinson ARC, will include nature-based strategies, long-term realignment of existing structures and infrastructure and structural options. … read more
Scientists have made it clear that stakes couldn’t be higher in the fight to save our planet’s species and habitats from extinction and devastation. On November 3, California became the first U.S. state to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, joining a global network of subnational governments promising bold action to conserve the planet’s biodiversity in the face of climate change.
The Edinburgh Declaration calls for transforming all sectors of society to address species loss and habitat destruction. It also highlights the key role that subnational governments can play in implementing global biodiversity goals.
California’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis met with Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson at COP 26 to formally sign the Declaration. “The nature crisis is real. We must move faster and on multiple fronts to address the joint crises of climate change and biodiversity loss,” Kounalakis said. “I am proud to sign the Edinburgh Declaration on behalf of Californians and our strong commitment to this global effort. As a subnational party with 40 million people to protect, 105 million acres we rely on for food, water, and habitat, and the fifth largest economy in the world to sustain, we understand what is at stake. There is no future in business as usual.”
And California is already delivering on this vision. In October 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-82-20, which elevates the role of nature-based solutions in California’s efforts to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and provide access for all Californians to the state’s precious natural areas. … read more
(Intro to the series here)
“Sea level rise will affect everybody and everything… We need to spread the word and work together.” – Hilanea Wilkinson
Today we are in the ancestral territory of the Wiyot, in what is now known as Humboldt County, talking with members of the Prop 68 project carrying out Phase I of the Wiyot Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The goal of this phase of the project is to identify cultural and natural resources within its ancestral lands and waters vulnerable to SLR and climate change.
Interviews with Tribal elders, youth, and community members is an integral part of this project as the project team works towards developing a use protocol for the collection and application of traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK. The TEK protocol will serve as guidance on how to appropriately and respectfully apply TEK, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the protection of tribal cultural resources. … read more