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Sea Level Rise Could Put Some SD Areas Underwater By 2050

San Diego environmental groups recently photographed areas specifically prone to flooding and tidal flows around San Diego Bay. KPBS environmental reporter Ed Joyce went along.

Audio

Aired 2/22/11

San Diego environmental groups recently photographed areas specifically prone to flooding and tidal flows around San Diego Bay. It's part of a statewide effort related to sea level rise.

It is a clear, crisp morning as we leave Shelter Island on a small boat to check out the King Tides.

San Diego Coastkeeper staff scientist Jennifer Kovecses captures images of low-lying areas around San Diego 
Bay during unusually high tides.
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Above: San Diego Coastkeeper staff scientist Jennifer Kovecses captures images of low-lying areas around San Diego Bay during unusually high tides.

This bayfront restaurant in Coronado is an example of an area that could have problems if sea level rise reaches the predicted 12-18 inches in 2050.
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Above: This bayfront restaurant in Coronado is an example of an area that could have problems if sea level rise reaches the predicted 12-18 inches in 2050.

Waterfront properties along San Diego Bay in Coronado are among shoreline areas at risk from predicted sea level rise.
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Above: Waterfront properties along San Diego Bay in Coronado are among shoreline areas at risk from predicted sea level rise.

Perfect weather for San Diego Coastkeeper staff scientist Jen Kovesces who is taking photos during the peak high tide around San Diego Bay -- getting a glimpse of what areas along San Diego's shoreline may look like in 40 years, when the sea level rise is expected to rise 12-18 inches.

Ed Joyce: "If you put sea level rise on top of this, these places are partly underwater?"

Jen Kovesces: "Yes, yes. So right In front of us right now we can see there's one house that has a beach with a tiny breakwall because the water is so high, relative to that little breakwall. That breakwall, that rockwall is about a foot. With an extra foot of water they would be having water right into their property and potentially undercutting that other structure that's on their property."

Ed Joyce: Where are we right now in San Diego Bay and what are we looking at?"

Jen Kovesces: "So we are on the west side of San Diego Bay, about one-third of the way down Coronado. So we're looking at the beginning of the residential area of Coronado. We can see some nice homes built right on the water at sea level, and some road infrastructure coming down toward sea level built We're we're some nice homes built a lot of recreational use areas, some paths for running, biking, and dog walking right at sea level. So all of that infrastructure pretty vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise."

Ed Joyce: "So this is an area in forty-years, if the predicted effects, 12-18 inches of sea level rise happens, this area would be underwater most of the time?"

Jen Kovesces: "Yes, it would have some serious water issues. You can see that there is some efforts to protect at least the pathway. But they're pretty small walls. And, given some of the predictions, those walls would likely be overtopped regularly."

Ed Joyce: "You mentioned part of this documentation process will go toward the effort of future planning in terms of infrastructure and taking into account the potential for sea level rise. What can be done in terms of the existing structures?"

Jen Kovesces: "There is a whole range of different approaches that can be implemented and should be considered and there's no one silver bullet. You have to consider what habitat and infrastructure is there and what is the level of risk. But those tools range from using softening shoreline techniques, using natural habitats to soften and absorb wave energy. Like putting in sub-tidal and wetland marsh-type habitats because we know that those buffer and absorb energy from water to more complex engineering approaches. From Coastkeeper's perspective we'd like to promote the more natural shorelines approaches where feasible and where doable because of the multiple environmental benefits that you get from having more natural shorelines because it also creates habitat that's much needed. And in addition to that you want to also protect what's already existing, natural habitat."

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