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Researchers: Coastal Defense Could Cost San Diego Over $350 Million

A seawall is constructed along the beach in Del Mar to protect homes from ris...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS News

Above: A seawall is constructed along the beach in Del Mar to protect homes from rising ocean levels, May 21, 2018.

San Diego will need to spend over $350 million to protect its coast from chronic flooding by 2040, according to a new study from the Center for Climate Integrity. And researchers there say that's a low estimate.

The study looked at what researchers are calling conservative projections of sea-level rise over the next several decades across the country. Even with moderate emissions, they estimate the cost of protection for California alone would hover around $22 billion.

Richard Wiles, executive director for the center, said the study looked at the local costs of building a seawall in any given community. So, in places like San Diego, which juts right up to the ocean, the costs ran high.

"These defenses will need to be constructed essentially starting now," Wiles said. "What you are looking at is roughly the size of the interstate highway system to be constructed in half the time."

Wiles says without these defenses coastal cities would likely experience costly flooding.

"Within 10 to 20 years a lot of these places are going to be experiencing flooding on a routine basis, so much that it will cause significant economic damage," he said. "People’s homes will be flooded three or four times a year, businesses will be underwater (many) times a year."

"That’s not sustainable," he added. "So these expenses have to happen now in order to get the defenses in place by the time the sea has risen, which is basically now."

It’s still unclear where the money to pay for this infrastructure will come from, Wiles said. The cost could largely be on taxpayers, but he thinks polluting companies should have to share the burden. The study estimates a national cost for seawall defense at over $400 billion.

By Reporter Shalina Chatlani

A new study from the Center for Climate Integrity looked at the cost of building seawalls in local communities across the country.

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