Bay Area Shoreline Faces Flooding in 40 Years

Photo: A study found that areas of the Berkeley shoreline will be in danger of flooding due to rising sea levels resulting from global warming.
Lara Brucker/File
A study found that areas of the Berkeley shoreline will be in danger of flooding due to rising sea levels resulting from global warming.

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A recent report issued by a local conservation commission found that areas of the Berkeley shoreline are in danger of flooding in the next 40 years as a result of expected climate change.

An April 7 draft report released by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission predicted that the sea level in the Bay Area will rise 16 inches by mid-century and 55 inches by 2100, flooding areas of the Berkeley Marina and a few blocks of West Berkeley.

According to Leslie Lacko, the report's principal author, 84 percent of the flooding will occur by 2050.

"By the time sea levels rise just 16 inches, the Bay Area has received a tremendous impact," she said.

Researchers used a prediction model from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to calculate the effects of future human activity on the sea level, said Steve Goldbeck, the commission's deputy director.

The model predicts levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which warm the earth's oceans, melt polar icecaps and raise the sea level, he said.

The city of Berkeley is not as susceptible as other areas of the bay because its shoreline is at a higher elevation, according to Dennis Baldocchi, a professor of biometeorology at UC Berkeley.

Many areas at risk of greater flooding are marshlands in the Bay Area that were filled with sediment or trash to create more land for development in the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, according Goldbeck.

"They didn't bother to build (the sediment) very high, because they didn't expect the sea to rise," he said.

Regardless of how much flooding will occur in each region, Lacko said the report should be a concern to all cities with coastlines along the San Francisco Bay.

Cities should pass laws to prevent more emissions from entering the environment, thereby mitigating the effects of climate change, she said.

According to Baldocchi, solutions include building sea walls and moving businesses and homes out of the area if flooding occurs as projected.

Councilmember Darryl Moore said the Berkeley City Council should take preventative action by passing its Climate Action Plan, which would require the city to reduce its emissions 80 percent by 2050.

"While (flooding) is still far away, it's critical that this generation do all they can now to try and alleviate the problem for our children and our grandchildren," he said.

Lacko said Berkeley's actions to pass environmental legislation should serve as a model.

"Where mitigation is concerned, Berkeley is certainly setting a prime example, not just for other cities in the Bay Area, but globally," Lacko said.

Moore said he hopes the plan will encourage other cities to follow Berkeley's example and implement similar legislation to reduce emissions.

"It's going to require all of us doing our fair share," he said.


Contact Arielle Turner at [email protected]

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