Since we as a society are basically giving up and letting climate change happen, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Port of SF have released their plan to raise SF’s shoreline by as much as seven feet in response to the inevitable climate floods.
In a city where it took seven years and about $350 million just to put some red-painted bus lanes on Van Ness Avenue, the notion that we could physically raise eight miles of our shoreline by as much as seven feet to prepare for climate-related sea-level rise seems simply undoable. But it helps when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in on the planning, and the United States Congress is footing most of the bill.
And that is the case, as the city confronts its need to raise the city’s downtown shoreline to prepare for rising sea levels. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Port of San Francisco unveiled their draft plan today to raise SF’s shoreline levels. It’s 252 pages long, and you can read the whole thing here. Or for some lighter reading, the Chronicle has summarized the highlights.
The plan breaks the city’s eastern shoreline down into four parts. The most challenging section is the Embarcadero and Ferry Building area (little red arrows), where the shoreline would have to be raised by as much as seven feet, otherwise we’d see cataclysmic flooding damage in major downtown areas. Various floodproofing efforts would also be necessary in Fisherman’s Wharf, Potrero Point, and Islais Creek areas.
The Embarcadero and Ferry Building components are obviously the most disruptive, and would entail basically rebuilding the entire Embarcadero roadway, moving all utilities underneath it, and closing the Ferry Building (plus possibly other nearby buildings) for extensive periods of time.
“The (Embarcadero) waterfront will inevitably shut down for a period of time. That’s going to happen,” Port of San Francisco Water Resilience Program director Brad Benson told the Chronicle. Though he added,“We’re thrilled that the Army Corps has embraced a plan that will protect the Ferry Building for future generations.”
Under this draft plan, the shoreline would also be raised by lesser amounts at several spots south of the Bay Bridge. There is also talk of temporary berms to use as water barriers in extreme flooding situations.
The summary of the draft plan notes that the plan “has an initial approximate cost of $13 billion,” but that “If the project is approved by Congress after this period of input and further development, the federal government would pay 65% of the cost.” Okay, red flags! “If” approved by Congress? Sounds like this depends on the Republicans not being in control on Congress for an extended period. And factor in also that nothing in this town is ever done on schedule or close to budget.
Even locally, there may not be the political will to shut the Ferry Building or parts of downtown for lengthy periods. This draft plan assumes everyone is on board with taking sea-level rise seriously enough to make sacrifices, which right now seems unlikely to be the case.
Unless maybe some sea-level disasters hit close enough to home first. And in that scenario, there will already be a massive human and financial toll.
Image: Embarcadero in San Francisco. Eastern waterfront and roadway of the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco, California [Getty Images)