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Imperial Beach receives state grant to develop flood adaptation strategies

The Imperial Beach coastline is pictured from IB Pier on September 30, 2023 as storm clouds swirl overhead.
Kori Suzuki for KPBS / California Local
The Imperial Beach coastline is pictured from IB Pier on September 30, 2023 as storm clouds swirl overhead.

Imperial Beach has received an $848,000 grant intended to help develop flooding adaptation strategies designed to better prepare residents for coastal flooding expected to intensify due to climate change, it was announced Thursday.

The grant was approved Tuesday by the California Ocean Protection Council, a state council charged with protecting California's coast and ocean.

"Coastal flooding threatens our homes, businesses and overall quality of life," said Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre. "This grant allows us to develop targeted strategies to adapt to rising sea levels and improve our community's resilience, ensuring a safer, healthier and more sustainable future for all our residents.


"Climate change continues to be unmitigated, and as a frontline community, Imperial Beach needs to plan ahead to be resilient against sea level rise," Aguirre said.

The funds will enable the city to "create a road map" to guide the development of future coastal resiliency projects in a coordinated effort between the city, federal, state and local agencies, landowners and the public, a statement from the California Department of Insurance read.

"Imperial Beach is taking critical steps to protect its community from the devastating impacts of coastal flooding and pollution," said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. "By making the most of these funds, we are addressing immediate risks and setting a precedent for innovative insurance solutions and climate-resilience financing, this collaborative effort will serve as a model for other communities facing similar challenges."

Imperial Beach will explore the use of insurance to protect people before a flood comes. The city is surrounded on three sides by water — San Diego Bay, the Pacific Ocean and the Tijuana River — and experiences coastal flooding.

Additionally, the water is often dangerous. Imperial Beach beaches have been closed for more than 900 days consecutively, owing to pollution from the Tijuana River Valley.


"Extreme weather events disproportionately impact communities of color and under-invested areas like Imperial Beach, where sea-level rise and pollution are already evident," said Nora Vargas, Chairwoman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. "This funding highlights the importance of seeking collaborative, innovative and informed solutions through initiatives like the Community Resilience District.

"By working together with other cities and regional partners, we can effectively address the adverse economic impacts of climate events on our communities," she said.

The grant will help finance two strategies: First, Imperial Beach will collaborate with the Department of Insurance and Scripps Institution of Oceanography to "understand the risk and exposure associated with coastal flooding and implementation of nature-based flood-adaptation strategies," a statement from Lara's office read.

Second, IB will develop a framework to establish a climate-resilience financing district to fund projects addressing flooding in the community.

"Scripps Institution of Oceanography is proud to collaborate with Imperial Beach on this crucial initiative," said Tom Corringham, economist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "Our expertise in understanding coastal dynamics and flood risks will be instrumental in developing effective, nature- based adaptation strategies.

"This partnership underscores our commitment to applying cutting-edge science to protect communities and enhance resilience against the growing threats of climate change," he said.