The kind of flooding and mudslides that recently devastated the town of Montecito could also happen in the Bay Area, thanks to the more intense atmospheric rivers that—along with more frequent droughts and longer, fiercer wildfire seasons—climate change is expected to bring to California.

The kind of flooding and mudslides that recently devastated the town of Montecito could also happen in the Bay Area, thanks to the more intense atmospheric rivers that—along with more frequent droughts and longer, fiercer wildfire seasons—climate change is expected to bring to California.

These swathes of water vapor from the tropics can be hundreds of miles wide and thousands of miles long, and bring with them enormous quantities of water; the one that arrived in early January dropped more than 30 inches of rain statewide. In Montecito, which had just been ravaged by December’s Thomas Fire, half an inch of rain fell in a matter of minutes and caused deadly flooding and mudslides. In the Bay Area, atmospheric rivers already cause more than...
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Despite some unnerving trends, Bay Area landowners and open-space authorities may be able to reduce the potential for another calamitous wildfire by modifying their land-management practices.

According to a worrisome article in the January issue of Bay Nature, the region’s future is increasingly fire-prone, thanks to climate change, population trends, and a legacy of strict fire suppression. Yet while the first two are beyond the scope of a single city or agency to manage, reducing fuel loads in forests and shrublands more actively, through prescribed burns and mechanical thinning, may help mitigate future catastrophes. At a gathering organized by the Bay Area Open Space Council last November, attendees seemed...
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An easily overlooked slough is pointing a finger of uncertainty at Oakland’s plans for ballpark redevelopment, transit safety and resilient neighborhoods.

From the pedestrian bridge between the Oakland Coliseum and the BART station, the view of Damon Slough–a 25-foot-wide canal of muddy, litter-choked water–belies its increasing prominence in the flood-futures of east Oakland. A study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission did the math, adding the impacts of rising sea levels on these Oakland flatlands to predictions of more frequent, more extreme storm events and urban runoff. “That’s when water starts coming out of manholes,” says Kris May, a coastal engineer who...
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In Humboldt County’s coastal dunes, a multi-agency partnership is restoring the native plant community to build resilience to sea level rise.

The project, along with four others in the Bay Area and Southern California, is featured in a new report, Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California. Much of the state’s dunescape was built over or hauled away before its value as habitat for unique species and a buffer against climate change was recognized. San Francisco’s dunes are long gone, and with them the endemic Xerces blue butterfly. Humboldt’s 32-mile stretch still shelters endangered plants like the Menzies’ wallflower...
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And also…

Nearly Half of California’s Vegetation at Risk From Climate Stress https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/nearly-half-california-vegetation-risk-climate-stress USACE Releases Yuba River Floodplain Restoration Plan http://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental-Projects/Yuba-River-Eco-Study/ http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20180108/feds-release-yuba-river-floodplain-restoration-plan Report Recommends Adding 37 Miles of the Mokelumne to Wild and Scenic River System https://mavensnotebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/AB-142-study-NR_joint.pdf   Contributors: Joe Eaton, Robin Meadows, Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, Nate Seltenrich, Cariad Hayes Thronson Please send suggestions for future Pearls to editorestuarypearls@gmail.com
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All In for One Water

As climate change threatens to upend precipitation patterns and disrupt water supplies, agencies are increasingly searching for ways to wring more benefits out of every drop. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is seeking to take integrated water management planning to the next level through its One Water initiative. “The idea of One Water is to manage all water — treated water, groundwater, stormwater, flood water, water for habitat, species and Baylands — as one resource,” says the District’s Brian...
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Minding the Margins

“The language changed from should restore to must restore,” says David Thomson of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, referring to federal guidance on tidal marsh recovery. Marsh-upland transition zones are crucial for a properly functioning estuary, but nearly all of these historic zones have been impacted by human activity. Thomson, along with a number of partnering agencies have worked to figure out how to bring transition zones back to life. “We have seeded over 30 species of local native...
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Worries Over Puny Pumps

Pump capacity, reliability, and cost are already big concerns for flood-control and sea level rise managers. “Gallon for gallon, it’s easily the most expensive way to deal with water,” says Roger Leventhal, a senior engineer with the Marin County Department of Public Works. “It’s not the ideal solution, but it’s the one we’re falling into.” New pumps, while costly in both dollars and electricity, are currently in the works. “It seems unlikely for us as a region to get away...
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Nudging Natural Magic

“Miraculous” isn’t a term that comes easily to the lips of scientists and engineers. But the word, along with a quickly quelled gulp of incredulity, cropped up more than once in interviews concerning the preliminary results of the horizontal levee experiment on the San Lorenzo shore – including off the charts levels of removal of nitrogen and pharmaceuticals from wastewater passed through the system and growth of willows, cattails, and wet meadows. This pilot sea level rise adaptation project, led...
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Bridges - public shore

Public Sediment Favors Mud

“We’re finally seeing a change in paradigm,” says Brett Milligan regarding how sediment is treated in the Bay Area. What was once considered waste is now considered a resource, and a group called “Public Sediment,” part of the Bay Area Resilient by Design Challenge, are proposing mud rooms, mud berms, mud pathways, and top-to-bottom mud management to better build up Bay Area shorelines and keep them above rising water.
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A wedge of gravel, mud, and grasses irrigated by treated wastewater outperforms all expectations as a prototype for climate change adaptation.

Experts monitoring 16 months of plant growth on a humpbacked levee experiment on the San Leandro shore, a project led by the Oro Loma Sanitary District, found early weed colonization followed by rapid dominance of target native perennial vegetation. “Native vegetation outcompeted weeds,” says Peter Baye, who designed the planting palette for this multi-benefit infrastructure project. The results were apparent during an October 2017 tour for international design teams looking at homegrown innovations in sea level rise adaptation as part of...
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In hot water due to climate change, many ocean fish are moving to higher latitudes or deeper waters to find the conditions they need to survive.

These include lobster, black bass, and Atlantic cod, all of which have supported iconic fisheries along the Eastern seaboard of the United States. “Ocean animals are moving ten times faster than animals fleeing climate change on land,” says Rutgers University marine biologist Malin Pinsky, whose Rutgers OceanAdapt website enables visitors to explore changes in marine species distributions over recent decades. These range shifts are causing headaches for fishing fleets, which are forced to head farther out to sea or hundreds of miles further from...
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Bridges - public shore

Drought Contingency

Motivated by the recent drought, local water agencies have formed an unprecedented partnership aimed at reducing the impact of future dry spells. The Bay Area Regional Reliability partnership consists of eight of the region’s larger water districts. “For the first time in the history of water deliver in the Bay Area, the water utilities are talking about how to assist each other when there is a shortage.”
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Prepping for Sea Level Rise—Who’s on First?

On an uncommonly sultry Thursday evening at the end of August several dozen people gathered in a grove at San Mateo’s Coyote Point, sipping beer and listening to a presentation on sea level rise by staff from San Mateo County’s Office of Sustainability. Then, accompanied by the sound of gunshots from a nearby firing range, everyone trooped down to the Bay’s edge, where temporary markers indicated how high the water would rise under three different scenarios. In the most dire projection, water...
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High Road for the Wettest Highway?

As Bay Area cities and counties grapple with the formidable challenge of preparing for a higher San Francisco Bay, there is perhaps no better example of the obstacles and opportunities than the effort underway to adapt Highway 37. The 21-mile North Bay corridor running from Vallejo to Novato has long been a source of tranquility and frustration. The highway offers sweeping views of tidal baylands dotted with roosting waterfowl and shorebirds plumbing mudflats for food, along with mile-upon-mile of open...
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Simultaneous lawsuits filed against 37 fossil fuel companies by Marin and San Mateo Counties, along with the City of Imperial Beach, over sea level rise may open new front in climate battle.

 The suits, filed in California Superior Court, seek compensatory and punitive damages and other remedies for the ongoing harm that oil, gas and coal cause by contributing to global warming and sea level rise. A 2009 Pacific Institute study calculated that San Mateo has more property and people at risk from sea level rise than any California county, while in Marin more than 12,000 homes, businesses and institutions, with an assessed value of $16 billion could be at risk from...
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Deliquescent Summit on Ocean Climate

Walking in the door of the fourth Ocean Climate Summit this May and finding Amy Hutzel, long-time chair of the committee in charge of implementing a conservation plan for the San Francisco Estuary, I asked her what she was doing out of her watershed? “Dipping my toe in the Pacific, “ she said. “For a while now, we’ve been working to build partnerships inland and offshore. It’s all one estuary.”
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Mainstreaming Resilience

Whatever the “perturbation” coming our way – a flood, a drought, a weed or Donald Trump – our recovery, in the aftermath, depends on something ecologists call resilience. It’s a term everyone is pasting onto their management initiatives these days – resilient landscapes, resilient shorelines, resilient water supplies, neighborhoods, infrastructure… But what exactly does it mean, and how is it different from other fashionable buzzwords that have galvanized Californians into thinking about the future?
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No Drought of Dirt

With its massive environmental and economic costs, it’s hard to see a bright side to the California drought. Consider mud, though. According to US Geological Survey scientist David Schoellhamer, the long dry spell may be giving tidal wetland restoration efforts an unexpected boost by promoting the buildup of sediment in the South Bay where former salt ponds await conversion to tidal marsh.
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