County of Marin - News Releases - Sea Level Rise Update

For Immediate Release
April 09, 2019

Supervisors Receive Sea Level Rise Progress Report

Successes with public outreach conveyed as adaptation becomes more urgent

San Rafael, CA – A recent resident survey showed that Marin County residents believe climate change adaptation and improvement in disaster preparedness should be two of the County government’s top priorities over the next few years. Sea level rise fits into both categories because it is one of the most alarming facets of climate change for peninsula populations such as Marin’s, and it’s considered a slow-moving disaster.

A view from Highway 101 showing flooded streets in Sausalito near Richardson Bay.It's becoming more common to see flooding along Marin's bay shoreline.
County staff provided an update on sea level rise adaption during the April 9 meeting of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and it was stark. Some of the key messages were that rising waters will inundate Marin’s coastal areas, a single solution doesn’t exist, and that a creative all-in approach to adaptation is critical.

Staff from the Water Resources Division of the Marin County Department of Public Works and planners from the Community Development Agency have teamed up on the Marin Bay Waterfront Adaptation Vulnerability Evaluation, known as BayWAVE. Since 2015, the group has evaluated private and public assets affected by sea level rise on Marin’s bay shores and planned the implementation of adaptation strategies. Some of the recent measures taken or considered include:

  • Assessing nature-based approaches that can be deployed with wetlands, horizontal levees, beaches, and subtidal planting of eelgrass;
  • Integrating flood control planning for low-lying areas with the impacts of sea level rise;
  • Developing guidance for County staff on land-use policies and capital projects;
  • Raising awareness through public outreach;
  • Increasing coordination and collaboration within County departments, towns, cities, and local agencies;
  • Participating in regional, state, national and international discussions around sea level rise adaptation
  • Implementing pilot projects that test new concepts and increase protections.

BayWAVE, designed to increase awareness and preparation for sea level rise, completed its first phase with the release of the vulnerability assessment and is in its second phase of an anticipated long-term planning effort.

Supervisor Kate Sears, the Board President this year, said the focus on transportation issues related to sea level rise and links with other climate change impacts such as wildfire danger have been particularly helpful. Representatives from Mill Valley, Sausalito, San Rafael and Corte Madera spoke at the meeting about the leadership exhibited by County staff in adaptation efforts.

“We’re in Year 2 of the BayWAVE project, and I think the impacts have been terrific,” Sears said. “A lot of it is collaboration between departments within the County but also with the cities and town and agencies around Marin. It’s been an invaluable experience, and we appreciate everyone’s engagement.”

In March 2019, the County hosted a sea level rise adaptation workshop and shared progress about local projects with more than 100 people in attendance. Participants included elected officials, civic administrators, and those funding the projects. More outreach events are in the planning stages. Also, staff has created an interactive map that allows viewers to see the range of adaptation planning and projects across Marin’s jurisdictions.

“We can plan for this, but it will take technology, creativity, and being holistic in our approaches,” said Principal Watershed Planner Chris Choo. “It will be a big shift, but we have no choice. We are at a crossroads, and we can plan for and design a resilient Marin.”

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Chris Choo
Principal Watershed Planner
Public Works

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 304
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7586
Email: Chris Choo
DPW Website