Local and state officials from across California are celebrating one of the first successful efforts to band together in the fight against sea level rise, a contentious issue that has historically had stakeholders on all sides up in arms.
PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
RISING TIDES Pismo Beach is one of many coastal communities in SLO County expected to feel the effects of rising sea levels in the near future.
At a California Coastal Commission and local government workshop on Dec. 17
, commissioners and local government representatives discussed the Sea Level Rise Working Group’s recently released joint statement on adaptation planning
, a set of guiding principles that will be used as a framework while developing plans for the anticipated impacts of sea level rise to coastal cities throughout the state.
The statement, which was released publicly in October and approved by the Coastal Commission in November, includes various goals for how and what kinds of plans should be developed in the coming years—plans that maintain consistency throughout the state while also addressing the needs unique to each city, incorporate the best available science, and use various environmental thresholds to trigger adaptation responses.
The Sea Level Rise Working Group—which had representatives from the California Coastal Commission, the California State Association of Counties, and the League of California Cities—had been working on its joint statement for the past year, according to Pismo Beach Mayor Ed Waage, who also serves as chair of the League of California Cities’ Coastal Cities Group.
“I think that working group statement is a testament to all the progress we’ve made,” Waage told New Times.
There’s no definitive plan yet for how cities will adapt to looming sea level rise—Waage said more of that challenging work will come in 2021—but he said this is the first time that the Coastal Commission and local municipalities have really dedicated themselves to working together on this pressing issue.
Past efforts to address sea level rise have been marred by tensions between the Coastal Commission and local governments, and environmentalists and coastal property owners. But in the last few years, Waage said leaders have been taking a different approach.
“Instead, we are working together to find ways to creatively solve these problems,” he said.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, other officials from cities and counties throughout the state agreed and vowed to continue pushing forward as a unit.
“I’m really delighted about where we are with this joint statement,” Imperial Beach City Councilmember Ed Spriggs said. “I think it reflects tremendous progress. It may not seem like it, but there’s a lot there that is a foundation for the way forward.” ∆