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Sea-Level-Rise Report Adapts Carpinteria to 10 More Feet of Ocean

Carpinteria Beach (File Photo)
Chuck Graham

Just as Carpinteria was finishing its draft ocean adaptation report, the State of California put out some gloomy news: Sea-rise levels were now expected to rise 10 feet by 2100, not 5 feet. “The Coastal Commission updated its guidance at the end of last year,” said Julia Pujo, with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc., the contractor for the city on the report. “They advised us to look at critical facilities and infrastructure, like power plants or hospitals, that cities need to operate,” to stay on schedule and quickly revise the report. Carpinteria will be holding an all-residents-invited workshop on February 12 to discuss the findings and possible solutions.

The worst-case scenarios that Wood Environment’s researchers based their report on allow the city to organize the steps it would need to take if the worst predictions came to pass, Pujo explained. Still a work in progress, the report’s Chapter 4 summarizes a rise of 10 feet, as well as details on the effects of a 5-foot rise, now expected by 2070. The wastewater treatment plant just inland of the railroad tracks at Carpinteria Creek and a portion of Highway 101 would be in the path of a 10-foot rise, both of them critical bits of infrastructure that Carpinteria and California cannot live without. The revised sea-level prediction assumes the loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet under a scenario in which emissions are unabated, important “particularly for high-stakes, long-term decisions,” the state update reads.

The Carpinteria report looks at flooding of coastal lands during big storms, erosion from storms combined with sea level rise, and sea level rise combined with regular high tides. As would be expected, the beach neighborhoods and parts of downtown are most at risk, as are creek mouths and the bluffs. The winter sand berm Carpinteria has bulldozed into place along the beaches since 1983 has proven to be effective to a certain tidal height at a cost of $36,000 annually. That’s one end of the solutions spectrum. Other structures like reefs or breakwaters could lessen wave impact and keep sand in place. However, Rincon could be affected by solid, sand-depleting structures — a fact Carpinteria knows from the effect of Santa Barbara’s harbor on its beaches — and Pujo said any such structure would require studies with the City of Ventura and BEACON, the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment, a joint powers agency for the shore from Pt. Conception to Pt. Mugu.

The current report adds Chapters 7 and 8 to the six chapters issued last summer. Pujo advised that sections 8.3 and 8.6 might be the best to read if short of time, the first explaining adaptation strategies and the second the recommendations for the city’s next steps. The meeting takes place Tuesday, February 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Children’s Project Auditorium (5201 8th St.).

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