OPC’s Year in Review: Meeting Challenges, Advancing Equity, Protecting Our Ocean

“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

Communities Entitled to Environmental Justice to Receive $7.5M for Coastal Water Quality Projects

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 Communities Entitled to Environmental Justice (CEEJs). 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

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 14: Stinson Beach Adaptation and Resilience Collaboration

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

California Joins Global Network of Subnational Governments Promising Action on Biodiversity Conservation

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

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 12: Wiyot Climate Change Adaptation Plan

(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

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 11: Evaluating Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning in Coastal California

(Intro to the series here)

“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. … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 10: Developing a San Diego Regional Coastal Resilience Roadmap

(Intro to the series here)

“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

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 7: Planning Regional Coastal Resiliency for California State Parks

(Intro to the series here)

“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

California Biodiversity Day 2021 – Get Involved!

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

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 3: Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model Update for Targeted, Climate-Smart Eelgrass Restoration in San Francisco Bay

(Intro to the series here)

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