In July, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments released the draft of Plan Bay Area 2050, a 30-year plan to guide growth in the nine-county region. “The biggest new integration in the plan is a set of investments to protect our Bay and ocean shorelines from rising sea levels,” says MTC’s Dave Vautin. The plan calls for just under $20 billion in investments ranging from seawalls and traditional levees to horizontal levees and wetland restoration to protect communities and infrastructure. “The draft showcases how that system of infrastructure improvements could protect 98% of all homes at risk over the next 30-years, as well as all major highways, railways and the vast majority of offices and other businesses in low-lying areas,” says Vautin. He adds that although the price tag sounds high, compared to some of the region’s most expensive transportation infrastructure projects, the benefit-cost ratio associated with protecting tens of thousands of homes is very high. “In a region that is so urbanized we are going to need to protect our shoreline in many places, leaving the approach of strategic retreat only to the lowest density areas, where those protections would not be as cost-effective.” Funding for these improvements would come from regional and local revenue measures, potentially including something similar to Measure AA. Vautin says that as the plan moves towards a final version over the coming year, “we want to think more about the types of funding sources that would be most appropriate and also, importantly, most equitable, so that we are able to support the communities least able to fund protections,” he says. As the pandemic has laid waste to the state’s budget, one potential revenue source, a climate resilience bond that had been planned for the November ballot, is now on the back burner. But several other climate and planning measures are still moving through the legislature, including AB 2621, which would facilitate the establishment of regional climate action networks and development of regional climate adaptation plans.

Pearls in the ocean of information that our reporters didn’t want you to miss
Photo: MTC
 

Although the Covid-19 pandemic and attendant economic cataclysm have tripped up some ambitious plans for funding climate resilience in California, other measures to integrate adaptation and planning are still on track.

In July, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments released the draft of Plan Bay Area 2050, a 30-year plan to guide growth in the nine-county region. “The biggest new integration in the plan is a set of investments to protect our Bay and ocean shorelines from rising sea levels,” says MTC’s Dave Vautin. The plan calls for just under $20 billion in investments ranging from seawalls and traditional levees to horizontal levees and wetland restoration to protect communities and infrastructure. “The draft showcases how that system of infrastructure improvements could protect 98% of all homes at risk over the next 30-years, as well as all major highways, railways and the vast majority of offices and other businesses in low-lying areas,” says Vautin. He adds that although the price tag sounds high, compared to some of the region’s most expensive transportation infrastructure projects, the benefit-cost ratio associated with protecting tens of thousands of homes is very high. “In a region that is so urbanized we are going to need to protect our shoreline in many places, leaving the approach of strategic retreat only to the lowest density areas, where those protections would not be as cost-effective.” Funding for these improvements would come from regional and local revenue measures, potentially including something similar to Measure AA. Vautin says that as the plan moves towards a final version over the coming year, “we want to think more about the types of funding sources that would be most appropriate and also, importantly, most equitable, so that we are able to support the communities least able to fund protections,” he says. As the pandemic has laid waste to the state’s budget, one potential revenue source, a climate resilience bond that had been planned for the November ballot, is now on the back burner. But several other climate and planning measures are still moving through the legislature, including AB 2621, which would facilitate the establishment of regional climate action networks and development of regional climate adaptation plans.

About the author

Cariad Hayes Thronson covers legal and political issues for Estuary News. She has served on the staffs of several national publications, including The American Lawyer. She is a long-time contributor to Estuary News, and some years ago served as its assistant editor. She lives in San Mateo with her husband and two children.