You say you need evidence of the disastrous sea level rise to come? Take a look at Beach Boulevard.
Last week’s king tides brought out the looky-loos. Shots of waves crashing over the seawall and onto the roadway were all over social media and on the front page of this newspaper. As a one-off, such powerful displays of nature’s force can be exhilarating. We all share photos of avalanches or “like” pictures of cartoonishly heavy rainfall. Until, that is, there is no dry ground from which to send our tweets.
Last week’s heavy surf undoubtedly compounded a problem long in the making. As any homeowner knows, water is relentless. It will eventually make its way wherever it’s headed without an equally diligent effort to hold it at bay, and all such efforts are ultimately futile. High tides and strong surf have likely been pounding that section of the coast for months and years, and over time that washed out the ground beneath the road so that this month’s king tides were simply the straw that sent the camel into the drink.
We can argue about the magnitude, worry over the timing and even debate the cause if we like, but our seas are rising and there will be more erosion along the California coast in the years to come. Of that there is no question.
This time, city officials take some solace in the fact that they built $150,000 into the budget for emergency repairs to Beach Boulevard. But that will hardly staunch the torrent of problems to come — from pier foundations to cliffside renters.
King tides are a predictable phenomenon. They occur when the earth, moon and sun align to boost normal high tides to royal stature. Experts have been saying for years that they can serve as a precursor to what’s in store.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that “king tides provide a glimpse of future everyday water levels, and they are a way to communicate local sea level rise impacts over long time periods. … As time goes by, the water level reached now during a king tide will be the water level reached on an average day.”
In other words, there will soon come a day when surf crashing over the roads of Pacifica doesn’t send us running for our cameras but will simply send us running.
None of this falls on deaf ears. It isn’t as if city and civic leaders in
Pacifica are unaware or in denial. There is wide consensus around the science of sea level rise. The problem is we either don’t know what to do about it or the solutions we envision seem drastic and impossibly expensive. If we don’t come to grips with what happened at Beach Boulevard and form a comprehensive strategy, Beach Boulevard will one day be just a memory.
— Clay Lambert