Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 5, 2014

Don’t hold the (sea) wall

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, Development, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Last night the City Council did something about the EIR (I haven’t watched yet so I don’t know what happened, I can only imagine that there was much confusion about the traffic impacts since City Councilmember Tony Daysog essentially indicated that he was confused about the traffic impacts and what the EIR is supposed to do about those impacts)  Anyway, can’t say I’m looking forward to watching the meeting since it will probably be pretty painful and rage inducing.

But something that is discussed in the EIR is sea level rise and impact.  Another important Alameda Point document is the Master Infrastructure Plan (annoying abbreviated as the MIP, pronounced as mip) which discusses the cost of sea walls and shoring up certain portion of land on Alameda Point in case of sea level rise (or earthquakes or something).   According to an article in Scientific American published yesterday there’s a new paper out that essentially says that the impacts of flooding will be way more costly than simply investing in sea walls from the jump.   It’s actually something that Planning Board John Knox White cautioned about early on in the MIP process.

The projected costs of the sea walls are super high, but the costs of repairing the damage caused by flooding via sea level rise will be even more expensive, highlights:

If governments fail to take any action, the annual cost of damage stands to reach hundreds of billions of dollars, at best, and as high as $100 trillion under grimmer scenarios, according to the paper, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The bleakest outcome could result in nearly 5 percent of the world’s population facing yearly floods that drain almost 10 percent from the globe’s economy, the paper says. That would require a collision of severe scenarios that involve leaping ocean levels, high numbers of people living along seashores and a lack of defensive efforts.

The researchers think that the worst results are unlikely to happen, because people won’t tolerate it. Instead, the group of 10 European academics predicts that the difficult decision to build expensive dike systems will grow easier in the future as the price of floods increase.

If humans build dikes, the annual cost of flooding could drop from as high as $100 trillion, in an unprotected world, to about $80 billion, Hinkel said.

The research touches on current challenges. Officials along the East Coast are considering adaptive measures like dunes, revetments, stricter building standards and expensive flood gates following Sandy’s $50 billion price tag.

While its’s easy to scoff about these projections and say that it’s too far into the future to really care about, it’s akin to those years and years of past City Councils deferring maintenance on public infrastructure because it will be some other generations’ problem to take care about.



  1. Or people could just start moving inland, where nobody lives right now. According to the “Catalina Cove” guy who spoke last night, the whole Point will be completely underwater by 2099. [I don’t care…I have no grandchildren]. None of this prepares us for the certain eventuality, predicted by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson that an asteroid will crash into the Pacific Ocean, generating waves that will wipeout all Pacific Coast real estate clear to Sacramento…

    Comment by vigi — February 5, 2014 @ 9:26 am

  2. Vigi. Is that speculation based on statistical probability or does Dyson have a asteroid out there with our name on it?

    I think Rotterdam has built some gigantic floor control gates. Even though a dike around Alameda would probably not cause perceptibly higher tides at Oakland because of the open bay, the principle is correct. In a constricted estuary like Hudson river and East River, a set of gates which would protect Manhattan would in fact raise the level for Brooklyn. Then there is the run off which backs up behind such a gate. There was a letter in the paper last week referencing a set of locks at the Golden Gate. It is unimaginable to me that humans could ever design and install anything which could resist all the various forces involved.

    Comment by MI — February 5, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

  3. This sea level rise business is a bit of a conundrum innit?

    Comment by lavage1o — February 5, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

  4. I trust sea level models for ice melt more than the EIR for traffic at the tubes although one might think it ought to be the other way around. On the other hand cubic meters of ice produce cubic meters of water which in turn convert pretty directly to ocean level, which may be easier to quantify, though it seems challenging to predict impact over a very vast surface area. Meanwhile on traffic we use projected cars per new housing unit which are based on pretty reasonable assumptions, and then apply projections for various other assumptions like commutes and jobs housing balances, all of which require speculation or averages, which by the end of it don’t seem quite as certain as converting cubic meters of ice to liquid to sea level increases.

    Just took the tube inbound at 5 which is rare. It was full but flowing along at 50 mph.

    Comment by MI — February 5, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

  5. While not a local resource, an interesting interactive tool for a global look at changing conditions.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — February 9, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  6. Other resources

    Comment by Chicken Large — February 9, 2014 @ 10:47 am

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