Santa Barbara Approves Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan

Proposal Projected Sea Levels To Rise 0.8 Feet By 2030

City Councilmember Kristen Sneddon | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The global climate crisis continues to exacerbate many precarious environmental issues, and for coastal cities like Santa Barbara, the detrimental impacts of rising temperatures on flooding and erosion are all too apparent. In order to proactively address these concerns, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to implement an adaptation plan to alleviate the effects of rising sea levels along Santa Barbara’s shoreline. 

The proposal, which projected that sea levels will increase by 0.8 feet by the year 2030, encompassed both short-term and long-term recommended courses of action as well as a structure for future decision-making in the face of unpredictable environmental changes. 

“The plan recommends the development of a ‘Shoreline Monitoring Program,’ which would essentially track parameters such as sea levels, beach widths, bluff position, and groundwater levels and compare them against certain triggers for action,” explained Melissa Hetrick, a project planner with the City. 

Other high-priority measures include flood-proofing infrastructure south of Cabrillo Boulevard and amplifying beach nourishment projects at Leadbetter Beach and Arroyo Burro Beach. 

Public commenter and Heal the Ocean’s operations coordinator, Alison Thompson, voiced her support for the resolution on behalf of the nonprofit organization: “We appreciate that the timeline for the review of the plan has been adjusted from ‘10 years’ to ‘5-10 years’ in recognition that this issue is very time-sensitive,” she said. 

“We appreciate that the plan recommends a near-term study on the effects of rising sea levels on groundwater levels and the need for a study on the potential for [elevated] groundwater levels to spread contamination in coastal soils,” Thompson continued. 

Councilmember Kristen Sneddon, who sat on the Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan Subcommittee, also delivered a statement commemorating the significance of the resolution as a pivotal step towards combating climate change. 

“I’m very proud that the City took the stance, from day one, to say that we’re not debating the science but that we’re making the plans,” said Sneddon. She also acknowledged the staff’s hard work and thanked them for the time that they devoted to gathering and compiling the information in the report before formally proposing the motion.  

“Some of the things that we’ve come up with are now emerging as statewide policies because of the work that we’ve done here,” added Councilmember Eric Friedman, who was also a part of the subcommittee. “We’re ahead of the game and we’re being seen as an example of what can be done.” 

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