Planning ahead for rising seas

RISING RIDE—Large waves pound Mondos Beach in Ventura County. Acornfile photo

RISING RIDE—Large waves pound Mondos Beach in Ventura County. Acornfile photo

A new study paid for by the California Coastal Commission is predicting with a 66 percent probability that sea levels along the Ventura County coast will rise 16 inches by the year 2060, threatening the almost $2 billion worth of private property and long stretches of Pacific Coast Highway.

Paid for by a $225,000 grant from the coastal commission, the risk-assessment document, titled “Ventura County Resilient” looked at how climate change could affect unincorporated communities along the coastline through the year 2100.

“We don’t know how fast (sea-level rise is) going to occur, but we know that there will be global impacts as a result, so it makes sense to look at what the long-term costs are if we don’t prepare so we can make some decisions about what we want to do in the future,” said Tricia Maier, manager of long-range planning for the County of Ventura.

David Revell of Revell Coastal, a Santa Cruz-based coastal management firm, aided the county in the study, which focused on areas of vulnerability as well as changes that could be made to protect the Ventura coast from rising seas.

Ventura County has the most coastal erosion of any county in California, Revell said.

“There’s a ton of stuff already at risk,” he said.

Revell noted that sea level impacts could cost the county $156 million in annual revenue from tourism, public parks and beaches, and other local revenue from recreational activities such as fishing and surfing.

What the county should do to protect itself from this loss of coastline “depends on how much money we want to throw at it,” Revell said.

Ventura County has three choices: relocate structures and roads inland, adapt to the rising seas by adding or reinforcing infrastructure, or “do nothing,” he said.

The county plans to discuss potential adaptation methods with those living and/or working near the coast in workshops being planned for the rest of the year. After that, planners hope to be able to draft policies pertaining to coastal adaptation that will protect those affected by the rising sea levels.

Senior planner Aaron Engstrom said he hopes the workshops will start a conversation in the community regarding rising sea levels and what should be done, if anything, to prepare.

“(The study) is supposed to be a nonpolitical, unbiased summary of the hazards and impacts of the coast and what will happen with sea levels rising in the future,” Engstrom said.

“(VC Resilient) will be used for adaptation strategies and then eventually we’ll draft some policy language for the local, coastal plan,” he said. “That’s when it really gets into regulations. That’s coming at a later time.”

Jane Carlson, a Malibu resident, is the career education coordinator at Thousand Oaks High School.

She said a recent workshop that was held to discuss the study was important not only for the local communities, but also for the region’s young people who will be affected by the study’s findings.

But Carlson expressed concern about disseminating the information to the public at large, including those who work along the coast and must commute to the beach on a daily basis.

“There are the voiceless people who maybe don’t speak English that could be living or commuting here, and are we hearing from them? No,” Carlson said. “They don’t even know about this.”

The workshop’s full Power- Point presentation can be found at project.