Humboldt Bay has the highest rate of sea level rise on the entire U.S. West Coast, which within the next century has the potential to inundate thousands of acres of agricultural land, local highways, critical utilities and infrastructure along with entire communities, according to a report published Thursday.
By 2050, three feet of sea level rise could cause Humboldt Bay to expand by 13,000 acres — an increase of more than 60 percent, according to the new report released by Aldaron Laird and Trinity Associates.
The report’s purpose is to inform communities and county planners on how coastal lands will be affected and how the will have to adapt to rising ocean levels.
Sea level rise projections for Humboldt Bay show that water levels will rise about 1 foot by 2030, nearly 2 feet by 2050, more than 3 feet by 2070 and more than 5 feet by 2100, according to the report. Humboldt Bay already has the highest sea level rise rate on the entire U.S. West Coast having risen 18 inches over the last century, according to the report.
“King tides on average are 1 foot higher than our monthly maximum tides, so when we experience 2 feet of sea level rise in the future (the high sea level projection for 2050 is approximately 2 feet) then the King Tides will cross that threshold potentially tidally inundating thousands of acres of former tidelands,” the report states. “We have located critical utility and transportation infrastructure on these former tidelands that are vulnerable to sea level rise.”
“Some areas, we’ll need to retreat and some areas we’ll need to protect,” 3rd District Humboldt County Supervisor Mike Wilson said. “We’re going to have to evaluate the costs and the benefits of all of those. Some of these changes may be beneficial to some other uses and not to others. Do you protect them, do you move them, do you remove them?”
For now, the county is working to update a more than 30-year-old planning document for its coastal lands, known as a local coastal program. The plan for the Humboldt Bay region has not been updated since 1982. Wilson said efforts are underway to begin updating the plan this year and potentially having a draft for the California Coastal Commission’s consideration by the end of the year.
Sea level rise reports
• The Humboldt Bay Area Plan Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/2rLrAbz
• More information on Humboldt County’s Local Coastal Plan Update can be found online at http://bit.ly/2rDLqWc