The Santa Barbara City Council plans to hold a public hearing Feb. 2 to discuss a sea-level rise adaptation plan.
The hearing will be part of the council’s regular meeting, set for 2 p.m.
The council could start development of a local coastal program amendment to implement the plan. Its purpose is to identify vulnerabilities to coastal hazards expected from the rise of sea level in Santa Barbara, along with possible actions for adapting to that rise.
This process started in November 2018 with the public release of the draft vulnerability assessment, followed by the release of the draft adaptation plan in August 2020. Then there was public outreach and a comment period.
According to the adaptation plan, sea levels in Santa Barbara have increased by 0.39 feet in the last 100 years. Santa Barbara has approximately six miles of shoreline, and under current levels, the city is already vulnerable to bluff and beach erosion, coastal flooding and wave impacts and flooding of low-lying areas.
The plan considers three planning horizons consistent with the sea-level rise scenarios in the vulnerability assessment update: near-term: 0 to 0.8 feet of sea-level rise (approximately 2020-2030); mid-term: 0.8 to 2.5 feet of sea-level rise (approximately 2030-2060); and long-term: 2.5 to 6.6 feet of sea-level rise (approximately 2060-2100).
“The state guidance estimates that these sea-level rise values have a 0.5% chance of being met or exceeded by the year 2100,” the adaptation plan reads. “The state guidance identifies these as the ‘medium-high risk aversion scenarios,’ which are based on the assumption that existing levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue and are not significantly reduced (‘high emission scenarios’).”
The hazard areas listed in the plan include Santa Barbara’s bluff areas, low-lying waterfront and beach areas, low-lying flood areas and the harbor and Stearns Wharf.
“Since 2000, sea levels are estimated to have increased by just under an inch, as of the writing of this report, but the rate of sea-level rise is expected to increase in the coming decades,” the report reads.
The plan lists city-wide actions that are considered high priority for the next five years. Some of those actions include: developing and implementing a shoreline monitoring program; amending the city’s hazard mitigation plan so that the city is eligible for federal funding for adaptation projects; implementing options to optimize existing sand bypassing and beach berm construction programs at East Beach and Leadbetter Beach; implementing additional beach nourishment, additional seasonal sand protective berms or formation of dunes at East Beach, Leadbetter Beach and Arroyo Burro Beach; redesigning and reconstructing the Laguna tide gate and pump system; raising or modifying the harbor breakwater, rock groin, sandspit and the walkway and wall; renovating marina facilities and the city pier; studying appropriate triggers for temporarily closing Stearns Wharf during major storms; and studying options for relocation and/or flood proofing of major wastewater, water and utility lines and infrastructure south of Cabrillo Boulevard.
To view the adaptation plan, visit santabarbaraca.gov/slr. The city is inviting the public to address verbal comments to the City Council on this plan — written comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To participate in the public hearing, follow instructions on the posted agenda at santabarbaraca.gov/cap.