“By 2050, this will be normal,” said Aldaron Laird, standing near the top of an Arcata wastewater treatment pond levee as waves broke at his feet.
A small group had trekked out to the Rising Tides Bench during a nine-foot King Tide on Dec. 13 for a discussion of sea level rise, its imminence and consequences.
While the bay’s present borders can more or less withstand today’s King Tides – also known as perigean spring tides, which coincide with maximum gravitational pull by the moon and sun – that won’t be the case when they ride in on top of tomorrow’s raised sea levels. At that point, seawater would overtop current levees and inundate coastal areas, including homes, farms, businesses and critical public infrastructure.
The higher sea levels are not an “if,” they’re a “when.” What we don’t know is exactly when.
And it won’t stop there. By 2100, some projections indicate sea level rise of over six feet, possibly much more. That’s why, at an Arcata City Council study session on sea level rise that same night, Community Development Director David Loya stated, “Arcata is not going to be here in the future.” Pointing northeast in the direction of the hills, he said, “It might be there.”
The levee walk and the later council study session offered both a reality check and a gut check as regards the cataclysmic challenges ahead.
In one day, the minute number of Arcata residents who participated in the two events – a few dozen total – learned about what’s coming and ways the city might respond.
Humboldt Baykeeper’s Jen Kalt, who had also participated in the earlier bay walk, said areas likely to flood should be assessed for toxic hot spots and other pollutants that could mingle with the rising waters.
The “punch line,” Loya said, is that “it’s going to impact the City of Arcata big time if we don’t do anything.”