Official regulations can be a whole lot of gobbledygook, so we were pleasantly surprised to find this relatively straightforward regulation in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publication: “Potential relative sea-level change must be considered in every (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) coastal activity as far inland as the extent of estimated tidal influence.”
Our interpretation: The Army Corps of Engineers must consider the effects of a rise in sea level when it undertakes a coastal project.
We were perplexed, then, to see that a recent Corps report on repair work needed at the Port San Luis Breakwater didn’t mention rising sea levels.
While this may be considered a minor repair project that doesn’t merit additional scrutiny, an incremental investment now could pay off in decades to come.
As Harbor Master Steve McGrath points out in a letter to the Corps, “If an increase in height of the overall breakwater is recommended it seems prudent to incorporate that at this time, even if just to this repair section.”
We agree completely.
Sadly, climate change is not some doomsday scenario. Climate experts estimate that sea levels on our coastline could rise at least 1.5 feet in 50 years, and by more than 4 feet by 2100.
Compare that to the 8-inch rise in sea level that occurred over the last century, and it’s obvious that the effect could be devastating for coastal communities.
As we learned at a climate change conference held in San Luis Obispo last month, local officials say sections of some coastal highways already are threatened with rising sea levels, and they’re taking action to reroute or strengthen some highways as a result.
That’s wise. From an economic standpoint, it makes sense to factor rising sea levels in planning all public works projects — no matter how small.