An update to the 1999 Bayland Ecosystem Habitat Goals, the new report called The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do urges swift action to restore our wetlands as a buffer against rising seas and associated flooding. Sea-level rise will increase in a few decades. If we do not act swiftly to restore our Bay Area wetlands, our cities will be in greater peril for increased flooding and infrastructure impairment. Our highways, airports, utility services, pipelines, water treatment plants are all threatened by rising tides.
The report synthesizes the recommendations of 200 scientists and government experts on climate change, sea level rise, watershed systems and urban engineering. In brief, they provide the following guidance:
Work with nature, not against it. Protect existing wetlands and provide the needed sediment for wetlands to keep pace with sea level rise. Wetlands are self-maintaining and can be a resilient buffer against sea level rise and storms, if we allow the natural flows of sediment and water that nourish them to occur. The alternative is sea walls and levees that require ongoing, expensive maintenance and none of the other benefits of wetlands.
Start today. Time is a key factor. An accelerated effort in the next few decades can save over 80% of our existing wetlands over the next 100 years.
Remember our streams. A key solution to rising Bay waters is right here in our own backyards. We should manage our land and streams to deliver sediment and clean water to the bay shore to nourish marsh growth. We should work with the entire watershed system, from the hills to the Bay.
Sediment is essential to grow and sustain our wetlands. A major threat to S.F. Bay wetlands is a lack of sediment in the bay for building up the wetlands. Wetlands can keep up with rising seas only if sediment builds up along the surface of a marsh over time. This needed sediment can come from shipping and flood control channels, streams and other sources. Agencies have an opportunity to bring sediment to wetlands instead of dumping it in the ocean or in landfills.
The pointed, urgent message has evidently struck a chord with the public. In the course of a week, Letitia Grenier and Warner Chabot of SFEI and Sam Schuchat of the State Coastal Conservancy have been interviewed and quoted in various news stories, which have, in turn, been republished in other media outlets. Primary stories include the following:
- October 19, 2015, San Francisco Bay: Race to build wetlands is needed to stave off sea-level rise, scientists say, San Jose Mercury News, Bay Area News Group
- October 19, 2015, NOAA: Sea Level Rise Problems To Accelerate in Bay Area, KGO-TV
- October 19, 2015, Act Now Against Rising Sea Levels, KGO Radio
- October 19, 2015, The Baylands and Climate Change: What Can We Do?, Letitia Grenier
- October 20, 2015, Wetlands restoration needs to be sped up in SF Bay to fight sea-level rise, Energy and Environment
- October 20, 2015, The Race to Restore our Wetlands, KCBS Radio
- October 21, 2015, Report: Bay Area Infrastructure, Communities at Risk Without Wetlands Restoration, KQED Forum
Related Projects, News, and Events:
SFEI's Letitia Grenier served as lead scientist of the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project, which yielded a report called The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do. The report is an update to the 1999 Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, which for the first time set comprehensive restoration goals for the San Francisco Bay estuary. Produced by a collaborative of 21 management agencies working with a multi-disciplinary team of over 100 scientists, it synthesizes the latest science—particularly advances in the understanding of climate change and sediment supply—and incorporates projected changes through 2100 to generate new recommendations for achieving and sustaining healthy baylands ecosystems.
On KQED Forum, Michael Krasny interviewed SFEI's Letitia Grenier and the State Coastal Conservancy's Sam Schuchat about the release of the new Science Update Report and its findings regarding the urgency to restore wetlands in advance of accelerating sea-level rise. As offered on KQED's website, "the new report reveals that 42,000 acres of wetlands in the Bay Area must be restored over the next 15 years to mitigate the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, swelling tides and strong storms threaten billions of dollars worth of businesses, homes and infrastructure."