A new report from the SF Port Commission sounds the alarm that without a couple billion dollars in seawall upgrades, downtown SF will find itself underwater when sea levels rise.
In the next month or so, we will probably see the return of the King Tides at the Embarcadero, a scary but totally normal phenomenon caused by a combination of gravity and the moon. But those are nothing compared to the scary and absolutely not normal climate change effects for which we need to prepare ourselves now, and the Chronicle has the news of an SF Port Commission report saying the Embarcadero needs to be raised by as much as seven feet to prevent catastrophic flooding as climate change makes storms worse and worse.
The Port Commission is already preparing earthquake modifications to strengthen the Embarcadero seawall. They've added to this some “early” projects whose intent is to not just reinforce the seawall’s earthquake safety now, but prepare for sea levels to rise by about 3.5 feet over the next 80 years.
“Strengthening the seawall and the shoreline will be very expensive work,” the Port’s director of waterfront resilience Brad Benson told the Chronicle. “We’re looking to advance all of these (early) projects over the next 10 years.”
That doesn’t sound like we need to worry about drowning this year, and some of the fixes could be fairly simple. Some solutions proposed include adding a flood wall or terraced steps. In some places the Embarcadero will only need raising of about two feet, but in the lowest-lying areas along the waterfront, like Pier 14 — which regularly floods in high tides — fixes could require as much as a seven-foot rise.
The report is fairly preliminary, and will be discussed further at the Post Authority’s November 9 meeting.
There is, of course, the price tag, which could be as high as $2.5 billion. But there are Prop. A earthquake funds and other federal climate subsidies to take advantage of. And given the Embarcadero’s proximity to population and workplaces, the cost of inaction could run a lot higher than a couple billion.
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