By John King
Fifty years ago, Bay Area residents rallied around the call to save San Francisco Bay. Public action on an unprecedented scale reversed development tides that for more than a century had covered shallow waters with land for industrial parks and housing tracts, roadways and garbage dumps.
Now the challenge is more profound: to accommodate the bay’s impending expansion as it rises because of our warming planet. And to accomplish that in a way that won’t put our human and environmental resources at risk.
An abundance of scientific studies says the bay’s average tide could climb several feet or more by 2100, with most change coming in the decades after 2050. It’s an inexorable shift that threatens low-lying neighborhoods as well as the fish, birds and wildlife that need tidal flats to survive.
- If sea levels were to rise 36 inches, the midrange increase through 2100 projected in the most recent study by the National Research Council, water would wash into San Francisco’s Ferry Building twice daily at high tide.
- With just 16 inches of sea-level rise, the tollbooths of the Bay Bridge could be flooded during storms.
- $35 billion worth of public property in San Francisco is at risk if sea-level rise by 2100 reaches 66 inches, the upper level forecast by the National Research Council.
- Already, lanes on the ramps connecting Highway 101 to the Shoreline Highway near Mill Valley are closed regularly — 30 times in 2015 — because of high tides, a small but vivid hint of how profoundly our region will be altered in coming decades unless the Bay Area starts making plans now.
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Tags: Bay Area, Climate change, sea level rise