“I hope we don’t fall into reactionary status quo.. but rather, take some bold steps in planning actions to try to adapt to sea-level rise in ways that might be a good bet.” – Charles Lester
Today we are talking with the University of California Santa Barbara project team leading a statewide evaluation of sea-level rise adaptation planning across California’s 76 coastal jurisdictions. One of the products of this work will be a user-friendly online inventory of adaptation planning occurring throughout the state. The Ocean Protection Council and the Office of Planning and Research are closely tracking the progress of this project and exploring opportunities to align and potentially merge the products from this work with the state’s Adaptation Clearinghouse.
Applying lessons learned from current and past action, the project team will develop recommendations for improving California’s coastal adaptation planning process, including the Local Coastal Plan policy update process. They will also assess alignment between local plans and the State’s Sea Level Rise Principles, released October 2020.
“I think of California’s coast as a laboratory of sorts, with all of these locations that are really diverse…if we can understand each of these places a little bit better, we might find little nuggets of wisdom about how to do a better job at making decisions,” says Dr. Charles Lester, the Principle Investigator on the project. This project will help California find ways to “plan for the long-term but take meaningful action today…and how do we take those actions today so as not to prejudice or ruin the future for our kids and our grandkids?” adds Lester.
California needs to move away from the “emergency-response” method that has dominated action around coastal resilience to flooding, erosion, storm surges, and sea-level rise and move towards thoughtful long-term planning with adaptation pathways and triggers that keep the ultimate goals developed by each local community in mind.
By evaluating the effectiveness of particular adaptation strategies, this project will help inform future action that factors in a given locality’s values and priorities (e.g. protecting property, preserving sandy beach landscapes, maintaining coastal access and public safety). A huge part of this Prop 68 project is to see how local jurisdictions balance the inevitable tradeoffs associated with SLR planning and projects.
“We expect to find that there is no uniform process for SLR adaptation planning, some jurisdictions may be far along in the process of SLR planning while others may be just beginning to explore opportunities for SLR adaptation planning… and different jurisdictions and communities may have different preferred methods for adapting to SLR… some may accommodate for SLR, others might want to nourish their beaches and protect their shorelines more heavily, and some may want to retreat from the imposing threat altogether,” notes graduate student researcher Caitlin Manley.
To learn more about this project, check out this video!
Video Production, Editing, and Narration: Kat Beheshti
Drone footage: Charles Lester
Photos: Charles Lester
Video Thumbnail Photo: Charles Lester
Video Footage: Kat Beheshti, Charles Lester
About Dr. Charles Lester: Charles is the Director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center within the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also the Principle Investigator on this Prop 68 Project. Prior to working at UC Santa Barbara, Charles served the State of California for 20 years as a manager, Deputy Director and ultimately the Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission (2011-2016). He received his BA in Geochemistry from Columbia University, and his JD and PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.
About Caitlin Manley: Caitlin is a Graduate Student Researcher at the UCSB and a Master’s Student at the Bren SChool of environment science and management. Caitlin received her BS in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Prior to entering graduate school, Caitlin has worked for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Sea Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Parks Service.
About the Author: Dr. Kathryn Beheshti is a 2021 California Sea Grant State Fellow with the Ocean Protection Council’s Climate Change Program. Kat’s own research focuses on understanding the drivers of loss and recovery of key coastal foundation species (e.g. salt marsh plants and seagrasses). Kat is committed to making science accessible to individuals of all ages and demographics. She hosts her own science communication platform, sloughit.com and participates in an interdisciplinary science communication team at SciAll.org, where she is a Lead Vlogger.
“By working together to develop a shared understanding of the risks we face as well as to prioritize the actions we can take to address them, we can be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.” – Emily Young
Today we are in San Diego County talking with members of the project team leading the development of a coastal resilience roadmap that will facilitate accelerated action for coastal resilience projects and investments that prioritize benefits to underserved communities in the region.
This Prop 68 Project will build capacity for the region as a whole and design an equitable approach that is community-led, allowing individuals living in these impacted or at-risk areas to inform the future direction of how the area is managed. The Nonprofit Institute and the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative are partnering with the Local Government Commission and Resilient Cities Catalyst to complete this work. This large collaboration exemplifies how inclusivity has been at the center of this roadmap process since its inception. … read more
“This project provides an opportunity for all Californians to have a say in what the California coast of the future will look like.” – Michelle Succow
Today we are talking about a Prop 68 Project to develop a template for how coastal state parks should assess sea-level rise vulnerability and how to plan and adapt to site-specific impacts. The team at State Parks decided to pilot this work in the San Diego District, given the diversity of coastal habitats and land uses in the region.
California State Parks manages nearly 25 percent of the California coastline, with 128 coastal units. This presents an incredible opportunity for State Parks to lead the state in moving forward on sea-level rise planning and adaptation. “Coastal units in the State Park system are already experiencing impacts caused by severe erosion and flooding and we anticipate that those impacts are going to increase as sea levels rise and so having a consistent and statewide approach for how State Parks can assess those vulnerabilities, is really important,” notes Michelle Succow, one of the leading members of the Project Team. This project will establish that statewide approach to vulnerability assessments across State Park units and develop a roadmap for how the identified vulnerabilities can be addressed through planning and adaptive measures. Earlier this year, State Parks released their Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy and this project advances many of the goals identified in the Strategy.… read more
As a state, California boasts both the highest number of species total and the highest number of species that occur nowhere else. Our state’s animal and plant life is so varied that we’ve been named as one of 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots by Conservation International. For California Biodiversity Day on Tuesday, Sept. 7, we’re turning our attention to what climate change means for ocean wildlife – and what we’re doing to protect the habitat those creatures rely on. (See the full line-up of California Biodiversity Day events here.)
Plenty of iconic ocean creatures can be seen from California’s shores including harbor seals, sea otters, elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles and whales. Our tide pools feature anemones, urchins, nudibranchs, limpets, mussels, crabs and many more animals uniquely suited to living in these constantly changing homes. Cormorants, osprey, sandpipers, godwits and pelicans are only some of the hundreds of species of coastal birds diving, soaring and nesting along our beaches. Dozens of types of flowers and other plants dot long stretches of undeveloped coastline. This all combines to create a fascinating and beautiful 1,100 miles along the Pacific Ocean. … read more
Today we are talking about a Prop 68 Project to develop an Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model for San Francisco Bay–where many of California’s eelgrass enhancement and mitigation projects have been conducted. In order to successfully restore eelgrass, we need to first find the best locations to restore, which is not as easy as it may sound.
The goal of this project is to update an Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model (HSM) that was first developed by Merkel & Associates more than 10 years ago. Not only do we have much better data today than was available 10 years ago, we also know much more about the conditions that eelgrass needs to successfully establish and expand, post-restoration. This project takes advantage of the wealth of data now available and applies lessons learned from previous restoration projects and our improved understanding of how eelgrass may respond to climate impacts to develop an adaptive, climate-smart HSM. “We have learned a lot through our restoration efforts about what works and what doesn’t, but site selection remains a tricky problem, especially as we think about the future of eelgrass habitats as conditions shift with climate change”, states Dr. Katharyn Boyer, the lead academic on the project. … read more
“We’re getting input from flood managers and stakeholders in the region…that’s exciting because it makes me feel that people will make decisions based off what we’re finding from this project” – Rae Taylor Burns
Today we visited University of California, Santa Cruz’s Coastal Science Campus to talk with Professor. Michael W. Beck, Co-PI on this Prop 68 project and Rae Taylor Burns, a PhD Student helping run the models for this effort aimed at measuring the social and economic benefits of nature-based adaptation solutions to protect San Mateo County from storms and sea-level rise. The primary goal of this project is to assess flood risk in San Francisco Bay and to identify the role of nature-based solutions in reducing those risks.
The project uses complex computational models for the SF Bay to evaluate current and future flood risk. By modeling increases in sea-levels and storms, the team can assess the consequences of increased flooding to people and property, but also assess how ‘restored’ wetland habitats adjacent to development in low-lying areas can reduce flooding risk. Similar models are used to assess how management choices and other adaptation solutions can mitigate other climate impacts, such as wildfires, drought, and extreme heat.
This team, led by Dr. Borja Reguero at UC Santa Cruz, will determine how effective nature-based solutions such as wetland restoration are at reducing the social and economic costs of flooding. “We need to adapt to sea level rise and storms, it is not a question of if, but when it will occur, we need to act now,” notes Dr. Reguero. Wetlands in the SF Bay shoreline represent a nature-based solution to the increasing challenges posed by climate change. The project will assess where and how nature-based solutions can protect San Mateo’s coastline, the interactions with the levee system, and revised ways to finance nature-based adaptation. When discussing the outcomes of this work, Beck notes that “it’s important to know that nature-based solutions are going to be just one part of the range of solutions for reducing [flooding] risks.”… read more
“This is a huge deal because we are on the cusp of something that is hopefully going to make a difference” – Curtis Havel
Today we are in Northern California, visiting the beautiful town of Sausalito to learn about a Prop 68 Project to establish an Eelgrass Protection and Management Plan (EPMP) for Richardson’s Bay. We met up with Curtis Havel, the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency Harbormaster and Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg, President and Founder of Coastal Policy Solutions to discuss their efforts to finalize and begin implementation of Phase 1 of the EPMP. The EPMP is part of the Transition Plan enacted by the RBRA Board of Directors in June of 2020. This project involves many different stakeholders–from regular users of the anchorage to state agency staff, academics, researchers, restoration practitioners, community-based organizations, and non-profit organizations. “We have had a lot of stakeholders involved…to make sure that their unique perspectives are included” stated Rebecca.
To develop the boundaries of the EPMP, the project team used a marine spatial planning approach to better manage the use of Richardson’s Bay by delineating an ‘Eelgrass Protection Zone’ where anchoring will not be permitted. This area is also quite shallow, at Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) the ‘Eelgrass Protection Zone’ is 5 feet or less deep, making it difficult for mariners to safely anchor. In clarifying the goals of the EPMP, Curtis commented that the plan “does not prohibit people from enjoying the area…you can still get on your boat and sail through the area, paddle board, kayak, or swim…you can still enjoy it”.
The implementation of the EPMP relies on four components, listed below: … read more
The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) was created by law in 2004 with the passing of the California Ocean Protection Act. OPC is a Cabinet-Level State Policy Body within the California Natural Resources Agency. The mission of OPC is to ensure that California maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. To meet its mission, OPC is tasked with developing science-based policy recommendations to decision-makers and coordinating with other ocean-related state agencies and partners to advance state efforts to protect ocean and coastal resources informed by the funding, collection, and sharing of scientific data. What does that mean in practice? Well, at the start of this year (2021), OPC funded 15 coastal resilience projects using funds allocated to OPC through Proposition 68. These “Prop 68 Projects” – as we will call them throughout this mini-series – were chosen in large part for their alignment with OPC’s mission, and specifically our Strategic Plan.
So, what is Proposition 68? Well if you voted in California’s midterm election in 2018, you probably saw this proposition on the ballot. Proposition 68 was first drafted by Senator De Leon as a senate bill to enact the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 – but we know it as Prop 68, a proposition that voters passed, issuing $4B in bonds to be allocated to projects around conservation, water, and parks.
Thirty-five million of that $4B was allocated to OPC to use for grants for projects that ‘conserve, protect, and restore marine wildlife and healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems with a focus on the state’s system of marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries’ and $21.2 million was allocated to OPC to fund projects that ‘assist coastal communities, including those reliant on commercial fisheries, with adaptation to climate change, address ocean acidification, sea level rise, or habitat restoration and protection, including, but not limited to, the protection of coastal habitat associated with the Pacific Flyway.’ Our miniseries will focus on this last chunk of projects, those that were funded under Chapter 10 of Prop 68 – Climate Preparedness, Habitat Resiliency, Resource Enhancement, and Innovation.… read more
The Conservation of Coastal Waters Advisory Panel has released its summary document: Advancing 30×30: Conservation of Coastal Waters. The report can be found here.
The Conservation of Coastal Waters Advisory Panel collaborated to explore strategies that California could pursue to conserve 30% of California’s coastal waters by 2030 (30×30) in a way that is meaningful, equitable, and measurable.
The Advisory Panel includes specialists from a Tribal Government, a federal agency, academic and research institutions, and non-profit organizations representing a broad range of conservation expertise in coastal habitats and communities. Panelist bios can be found here, along with the questions that the panelists were asked to address — click on the Conservation of Coastal Waters Topical Workshop header to see both. The public is also being asked to consider how they would address these questions.
A topical workshop, Advancing 30×30 and Conservation of Coastal Waters, will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 17 from 3 to 6 p.m. that will feature a presentation from the Advisory Panel, as well as an opportunity to provide input on how California Natural Resources Agency and its partners can deliver on the State’s 30×30 goal. Register for the workshop here.
Public participation is key to these workshops, and participants will have an opportunity to share their perspectives on the topic. Key takeaways related to each topic will inform the State’s Pathways to 30×30 document and CA Nature GIS.
All meetings are open to the public and will be accessible by Zoom, a phone dial-in option, and YouTube livestream. Advance registration is required and participants who wish to make a 90-second public comment will need to register to provide verbal input during the public comment session.
Visit CaliforniaNature.ca.gov for additional information about the virtual workshop and other ways to provide comments
The Ocean Protection Council and California Natural Resources Agency gathered input from stakeholders regarding implementation of AB2516, the Sea-level Rise Planning Database. Comments and feedback on the draft (available below) were incorporated into the final survey which was distributed to entities named in AB2516 in early June 2015.