Due to the COVID-19 crisis occurring early this year, the outbreak has put on hold at least a dozen Bay Area projects meant to prevent flood damages from rising sea levels during natural calamities. The canceled proposals all cost a total of $10 billion, with the money put back to the reserve for a longer time, stalling the projects’ progress as a result.
According to professionals, the Bay Area runs out of time due to NASA readings indicating the state’s alarming increases in ocean and bay water levels. The San Francisco Estuary Institute’s executive director Warner Chabot noted that they could not tolerate losing a day, a week, or even two more years to execute the projects to cope with the rising seawater levels of the Bay Area.
Marin County’s Planning Manager Jack Liebster also voiced the same sentiment. As he gazed over Stinson Beach, he stated that the world would hurt if they don’t start implementing the plans very soon. According to the National Park Service, Stinson Beach is one of Northern California’s best swimming beaches. Despite the previously mentioned fact, the beach is also famous for being one of the Bay Areas vulnerable places due to the concerning increase in water proportions. According to Liebster, drowning and erosion are enough to destroy the entirety of Stinson Beach if not addressed as soon as possible.
During one weekend, Liebster showed how vulnerable Stinson is by rising seas every ten years. C-Smart, a Marin County vulnerability assessment, alerts that flooding caused by increased sea levels could severely affect the economic toll. Once this happens, it could impact 3,000 locals, several million tourists, and 14,000 infrastructures. To prevent this worst-case scenario from happening, Liebster proposed creating a series of sandbanks that could serve as sea walls. These sandbanks would not only protect Stinson’s homes and properties, but it could also aim to feed the sea with sand to prevent it from eroding. However, a project such as this would need testing, engineering, and a hefty sum of money.
Several of Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed bills in January, including a $4.7 billion bond meant to aid threatened spots like Stinson Beach, got stalled when the pandemic started. Gov. Newsom’s Chief External Affairs Officer Sara Lupien affirmed that they shelved the bond and other projects due to the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, they made no decisions regarding the January 2021 budget for the proposed agreements.
The Investigative Unit discovered more than a dozen Bay Area projects aimed to protect, slow, or stop increased sea levels from devastating damages are currently either delayed or stalled by the COVID-19. The pandemic causes a severe recession on both local’s and statewide’s tax base.
Furthermore, The Investigative Unit mentioned several plans slowed or stalled. These include elevating roadways and buildings in Marin County’s Highway 1, replacing San Rafael’s water treatment plan levee with a new one, and implementing the South Bay Salt Ponds restoration project.
The South Bay Salt Ponds restoration project is the west coast’s large-scale tidal wetlands attempt to absorb increasing water levels during heavy rains and gusty storms. According to administrators, most construction relative to the rehabilitation got slowed down due to the pandemic.
According to several experts, time is a vital component in establishing sea level rise proposals. Scientists expressed their intent to make natural reefs to slow down the effects of rising sea levels and use Pinole Point as its testing site. If the project gets delayed too long, however, establishing barricades would prove almost impossible.
The Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s Executive Director Larry Goldzband stressed that projects pushed back by the coronavirus outbreak does not discredit their importance. The rise in water levels is still a huge possibility. Without executing the proposals meant to stop and slow flood damages, vulnerable Bay Area locations might be subject to devastating consequences as a result.