Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

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San Francisco Bay: Protection from costly disasters is being thrown away, scientists say

By Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, April 13, 2021

“[A]s sea level rise threatens to cause billions of dollars of flooding in the coming decades, the bay is going to need to be filled again — but this time in a different way, according to a new scientific report out [April 13].

“Twice the amount of sediment excavated for the Panama Canal will be needed to build up the bay’s shoreline, researchers say, to protect communities from disastrous flooding and rising seas that could climb as much as six feet by the end of the century.

“[Much of that sediment can be recovered from] the mud and silt scooped up when the bay’s harbors and shipping channels are dredged every year.

“Using what has been considered a waste product to protect the bay from flooding would be a transformation similar to society realizing that aluminum cans and glass bottles shouldn’t be thrown in landfills, or that wastewater could be cleaned and used again for irrigation, said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, an environmental group in Oakland.

Lewis added, ‘There are places where we are going to need to raise levees and seawalls. But in most of the bay we can use natural infrastructure. And that costs less than seawalls and brings more benefits,’

“Among those benefits are habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife, and recreational trails for the public.

“Lewis said a key challenge is convincing the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that does most of the dredging, to change its longstanding practices.

“Another big challenge is the pricetag.

“[I]f the federal or state government doesn’t provide more funding, [Jim Haussener, executive director of the California Marine Affairs & Navigation Conference, said he] worries local ports either won’t be dredged as often or will see their fees go up.

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