A study sponsored by the California Energy Commission concluded that the sea level would increase by between 6 and 10 feet by the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a medium to medium-high rate, putting 480,000 residents of coastal California at risk of flooding. In addition, the report concluded that 140 schools, 34 police stations, 330 hazardous waste facilities, 3,500 miles of road, 280 miles of railroad track, 30 power plants, and 29 wastewater treatment plants located along the coast could be in peril. In Santa Barbara, the ocean would rise and spread to the other side of the railroad tracks, turning much of the coast into a vast lagoon.
The state estimates fall far short, however, of what was projected last year by proponents of the controversial “Light Blue Line,” the art installation that would have demonstrated how high sea levels would rise with a blue stripe painted throughout the city. Proponents of this project suggested the water level would creep up Milpas Street all the way to La Super-Rica Taqueria.
According to the state study, Santa Barbara would get off relatively easy. Comparatively, the Bay Area would sustain more than $50 billion worth of damage, while 110,000 residents in San Mateo County and Orange County each could find themselves in harm’s way.