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Sea-level rise prompts some Californians to move inland

Published: Tuesday, June 5, 2012

As tides creep higher, narrowing beaches and imperiling infrastructure up and down the California coastline, some communities are deciding to let nature run its course, abandoning plans for sea walls and moving inland.

It's a question faced by coastal communities around the globe, where more than half the human population lives within 100 miles of a sea or an ocean. Some indigenous communities in Alaska have already had to relocate villages, while Hawaii may soon have to consider plans to slow coastal development, some scientists say.

In the past, many communities erected sea walls to hold back rising waters, and today, about 10 percent of the California coastline is armored. But increasingly, communities are opting instead to let nature run its course and bowing to the inevitability of a 12- to 18-inch rise by 2050.

"I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully," said David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at ESA PWA, a San Francisco-based environmental consulting firm involved in planned retreat projects.

This means moving gas, water and sewer lines out of risk zones; shifting bike lanes and highways; and allowing development only with the caveat that, when the time comes, owners will move inland without resorting to sea walls.

Many environmental groups, beachgoers and surfing enthusiasts oppose coastal armoring because it causes erosion to occur more quickly outside the wall and along adjoining sections of coast. Scientists have also found evidence that sea walls impair beach ecology (Chang/Dearen,  AP/, June 2). -- NM

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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