Tag Archives: sea level rise

Op-Ed: Rebuild State Route 37 to address sea level rise and traffic 

Fraser Shilling and Steven Moore, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

State Route 37 — which snakes across Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California — is living on borrowed time.

At times, the highway appears to be impassable because of the 44,000-plus vehicles that travel portions of it every day. However, the effects of climate change will render this critical northern Bay Area crossing absolutely impassable during high tides unless we collaborate regionally on the best way to balance traffic needs and the valuable wetlands the roadway straddles.

The societal challenge we face is adapting to environmental changes in a resilient way while being ecologically sustainable. In the Bay Area, rebuilding State Route 37 to avoid its potential loss in the next 20 years because of flooding will be our first regional foray into adapting to sea level rise — an issue that will threaten most of our shoreline infrastructure, coastal ecosystems and population centers.

State Route 37 provides a critical “northern crossing” of the San Pablo Bay as it stretches from Interstate 80 in the east, to Highway 101 in the west, serving local residents, commuters and visitors, as well as freight haulers traveling between the Central Valley and the Santa Rosa area. Today the highway is built atop a berm, an outdated method of building roads across marshes and waterways that constricts the ability of the bay to improve water quality by filtering out pollutants, produce more fish and wildlife, and absorb floods.

The temptation may be to work on a quick, easy fix that reduces traffic congestion while ignoring long-term consequences. These consequences include traffic congestion returning to current levels in a few years, and the San Pablo Bay tidal marshes being cut off from the life-giving ebb and flow of the tides.

Read more at: Rebuild State Route 37 to address sea level rise and traffic – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation, Water, Wildlife

Scientists fear Trump will supress new climate report

Lisa Friedman, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Read the draft of the Climate Change Report.

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

The authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they wrote.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

Read more at: Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Shoring up the state: Is California’s response to rising seas enough?

Julie Cart, VENTURA COUNTY STAR

In Sonoma County, Highway 37, built on a base of mud, flooded on 27 days last winter and has already sunk more than two feet, according to Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt. He said that the state’s transportation agency, Caltrans, told local officials that it could get to the problem in 2088.

Four affected counties, unable to wait 71 years, are considering a number of options, including putting the critical commuter highway atop a 6-foot levee. The price tag for the 20-mile project is as much as $4 billion, and no one knows who will pay for it. 

For Will Travis, it began 12 years ago, with an eye-opening article in the New Yorker magazine about rising seas and the widespread flooding and dislocation that would bring. As the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the region’s coastal management agency, he needed to know more.

Travis directed his staff to research the issue. In 2007 they handed him a report that foretold catastrophe. The agency produced maps with colorful, frightening flood projections and shared it with local policymakers. Trillions of dollars in public and private infrastructure were at risk, Travis told them. The time to prepare was now.

Yet the region’s elected officials and Silicon Valley’s cluster of high-tech firms were deaf to the urgency of his message. No one was planning for higher seas. Their problems were more immediate.“

What I heard a lot was, ‘I’m trying to get my kid into a good college, my wife wants me to lose weight, the car transmission is making a funny noise and you want me to worry about sea level rise?’” Travis said. “‘Yeah, I’ll get to that when I prepare my earthquake supplies.’”

He crafted a policy response for his region anyway. In 2011, after four years of scientific analysis, intense bickering, and legal fights, the commission issued what Travis described as the nation’s first enforceable requirement that all shoreline development address the problem of rising seas.

Read more at: Shoring up the state: Is California’s response to rising seas enough?

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Transportation

Bay Area officials eye future tolls as way to upgrade troubled Highway 37

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

North Bay motorists suffering through congested traffic on Highway 37 or long detours from closures of the roadway caused by flooding may wish for anything to relieve them of their misery.

But does that include paying tolls?

A fee-based future appears to be gaining traction with a key advisory group tasked with long-term solutions for traffic and flooding on the heavily traversed 21-mile highway from Vallejo to Novato.“

I think everyone acknowledges there’s few options other than tolls to generate revenue needed to do a project of that scale in that location,” said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, chairman of the Highway 37 Policy Committee.

Rabbitt spoke Thursday following the committee’s meeting at Mare Island in Vallejo. The group includes representatives of transportation agencies in Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano counties, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

Highway 37, which skirts the edge of San Pablo Bay, is increasingly at risk from sea level rise, and this winter was closed for weeks at a time as a result of storm-related flooding. The segment east of Sonoma Raceway, which narrows to two lanes, is a particularly problematic choke-point.

Read more at: Bay Area officials eye future tolls as way to upgrade troubled Highway 37 | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

California says oceans expected to rise higher than thought

Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Read the report: Rising Seas in California

New climate-change findings mean the Pacific Ocean off California may rise higher, and storms and high tides hit harder, than previously thought, officials said.

The state’s Ocean Protection Council on Wednesday revised upward its predictions for how much water off California will rise as the climate warms. The forecast helps agencies in the nation’s most populous state plan for climate change as rising water seeps toward low-lying airports, highways and communities, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Discoveries that ice sheets are melting increasingly fast in Antarctica, which holds nearly 90 percent of the world’s ice, largely spurred the change.

As fossil-fuel emissions warm the Earth’s atmosphere, melting Antarctic ice is expected to raise the water off California’s 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) of coastline even more than for the world as a whole.

Read more at: California says oceans expected to rise higher than thought | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma Coast

Caltrans announces Highway 37 emergency construction 

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State highway officials are rushing to stabilize low-lying Highway 37 in northern Marin County on an emergency basis to prepare for another strong storm forecast to hit the region Thursday.

The highway has been inundated with flooding water from a series of January and February storms, causing road closures and traffic headaches for commuters dependent on the major Sonoma and Marin county thoroughfare.

A three-mile stretch of Highway 37 between Highway 101 and Atherton Avenue has been closed since Feb. 9. CHP officials Monday said they expected it to remain closed until at least Thursday while road crews work around the clock to raise it.

Caltrans has hired Santa Rosa-based Ghilotti Construction Co. to do the work, according to the CHP. A company representative couldn’t be reached Monday. A Caltrans spokesman didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.One of the lowest lying state roads in California, Highway 37 crosses marshlands, rivers and creeks along the San Pablo Bay.

Read more at: Caltrans announces Highway 37 construction | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

In demand but increasingly swamped, Highway 37 has no easy fixes

Peter Fimrite, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

“This is something we foresaw because there are several low spots along these berms and levees,” said [Fraser] Shilling, whose report, Rising Above the Tide, says sea levels have already risen 8 inches along the California coast.

Persistently swamped Highway 37 — historically a sore spot for motorists — is rapidly becoming one of the Bay Area’s most pressing issues as heavy storms keep rolling through this winter, forcing repeated closures of a crucial transportation link.

The peculiar highway, which looks more like a rural farm road in places, connects the North Bay to the East Bay by cutting through wetlands and hay fields along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay. Wine Country day-trippers use it, as do drivers headed to Sonoma Raceway and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo.

The increasingly popular artery, which was shut down for much of last week, has been closed for about three weeks this winter because of flooding.

The soggy blockages have raised aggravation levels among tens of thousands of commuters who use Highway 37 each day, and are providing a disturbing glimpse into what ecologists say is a wetter future, in which floodwaters powered by climate change could permanently drown the roadway.

“It is definitely the most problematic area in the Bay Area from the point of view of shoreline flooding and threats to communities and infrastructure,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis and author of a 2016 report analyzing the future of the highway.

Read more at: In demand but increasingly swamped, Highway 37 has no easy fixes – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Close to Home: Plans to fix Highway 37 need public support

David Rabbitt, Jake Mackenzie & Susan Gorin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To stay informed:

Follow Highway 37 on Facebook: facebook.com/route37/

Sonoma County Transportation Authority documents: http://scta.ca.gov/projects/highway37/

UC Davis Road Ecology Center: https://roadecology.ucdavis.edu/

Highway 37 was closed for nearly half of January. This 21-mile east-west corridor carries 44,000 vehicles each day and provides a critical link for commuters, weekend trips and freight hauling.

The recent news stories and editorial (“A glimpse of Highway 37’s flooded future?” Jan. 26) about flooding, correctly point out that local policymakers are working hard to figure out how to make the much-needed improvements happen quickly. It is not a simple nor easy task, but work is underway.

Two key facts have been established:Initial studies conducted by Caltrans and UC Davis provide preliminary analysis about how sea level rise will impact the corridor. It is dramatic information that shows complete inundation by the end of this century.

Traffic counts and analysis have been conducted to identify who is using the corridor at certain locations. The results show an even split among the four counties, but the direction of travel is very dependent on the time of day, with commuters going west in the morning and east in the evening.

There are five areas where action is underway:

1. Caltrans is pulling together plans and resources to raise the roadway where flooding occurred and pumping was needed.

2. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has a contract already in place to analyze alternatives for all the problems facing the Highway 37 corridor — traffic congestion, flooding during storm events and other approaches such as bikeways, buses and rail. The $1 million evaluation of design alternatives will be completed in December.

3. Decisions on if and how a proposal to privatize a portion of the roadway — from Sears Point to Mare Island — fits into the solution.

4. Community outreach through public meetings, websites and social media have begun and will ramp up in 2017 as we have more detailed concepts related to environmental impacts, design ideas and funding options.

5. Funding is the most significant challenge. State and federal transportation money will be needed for a project of this size. Estimated costs far exceed $1 billion. And, at the same time, it is not the only large highway project we need to work on. In Sonoma County, we need to finish Highway 101; plus there are important projects on Interstate 80 at 680 in Solano County, on Highway 101 at 580 in Marin County and on Highway 29 in Napa County.

The funding challenge has led to an exploration of charging drivers like a toll bridge. In other corridors where this approach has been used — such as the Golden Gate Bridge — the user fees help provide the funds for improving and maintaining the corridor.

As the three Sonoma County representatives on the four-county policy committee, we ask for your help to find the best solutions.

The authors are members of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt is chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and chairman of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie is incoming chairman of the Metropolitain Transportation Commission and a member of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin is a board member for the Transportation Authority and is also a member of the State Route 37 Policy Committee.

Source: Close to Home: Plans to fix Highway 37 need public support | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

Debate stalled over how to upgrade Highway 37 to deal with climate change

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Surveying flooding along Highway 37 in January, ecologist Fraser Shilling began doubting his projections for when climate change will cause severe, perhaps catastrophic impacts on the major North Bay thoroughfare.

In an influential 2016 report used as a guide for the highway’s future, Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis, had established a timetable of several decades for those impacts to be fully realized.

But that was before January storms forced the full or partial closure of the highway for roughly 12 days, causing havoc for thousands of daily commuters.

“We’re starting to overwhelm the system in places that we were thinking we had 20 years of lead time. But we don’t,” Shilling said this week from his office in Davis. Delaying action could be catastrophic, he said, predicting that one day water will push over embankments and levees and the highway will be “gone.”

Highway 37, one of the lowest-lying in California, has long been threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, inadequate levees and political waffling over who bears responsibility for maintaining and upgrading the road. The 21-mile highway meanders across four counties — Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Marin — traversing tidal marshlands, rivers and creeks, and farmland where flooding presents a threat to livelihoods.

“You’ve got farms, freeways and frustrated drivers — and sea level rise,” said Brian Swedberg, who manages 525-acre Petaluma River Farms north of the highway across from Port Sonoma.

Read more at: Rising seas and pounding storms taking toll on Highway 37 | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Transportation, Water

Op-Ed: A glimpse of Highway 37’s flooded future?

Editorial Board, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Highway 37 is flooded again, with a three-mile stretch east of Highway 101 inundated by as much as five feet of water less than a week after the previous flood receded.

With no place to pump the flood water, it could be several days before this important regional link reopens. The prior closure lasted more than week.

For anyone who commutes to Marin County from the Sonoma Valley, Napa or Vallejo, or anyone headed the opposite direction, it’s a time-consuming nuisance.

Worse, these unprecedented floods may be more than a side-effect of our drought-busting winter. They could be a glimpse of what climate change and rising sea levels have in store of the North Bay.Sonoma County’s transportation agency warns that high tides eventually could wash over parts of Highway 37 twice a day, and UC researchers say the segment between the Petaluma River and Lakeville Highway is at risk of “permanent inundation” if sea level rises 12 inches — about 20 percent of what some recent models project by the end of the century.

This is where we would like to tell you about an expedited plan to protect the highway and the thousands of people who use it daily from routine flooding.

But there isn’t any such plan.

Highway 37 is one of the lowest lying highways in California, and it could be one of the first roads threatened by climate change, but flood-proofing and other improvements are nowhere to be found on the state’s list of infrastructure projects. Moreover, because it passes through parts of four counties over its relatively short 21-mile path, Highway 37 isn’t viewed by any of those counties as its top transportation priority. To their credit, however, the counties recently formed a panel to study traffic and flooding concerns.

The only pending proposal for Highway 37 is a private venture’s offer to build a four-lane causeway between Sears Point and Vallejo, where there are now just two lanes. The expansion would be paid for by imposing tolls.

Read more at: PD Editorial: A glimpse of Highway 37’s flooded future? | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation