Oct 19, 2015

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:

Associated Staff: 
Other Contributors: 
Sam Schuchat
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Resilient Landscapes Program
Center for Resilient Landscapes
Wetland Science