Coastal Power Plants & Coastal Flooding

By Published On: March 16, 2012

Low-lying areas of Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area covered by homes, power plants, and other industrial facilities are increasingly vulnerable to severe coastal floods during storm surges, warns a report released March 14 by Climate Central. Sea level rise stemming from global warming is driving increased vulnerability in California and other coastal areas of the U.S., according to the report, Surging Seas. Florida is the most vulnerable state. “There is some real vulnerability in Southern California and the Bay Area as well,” said Ben Strauss, chief operating officer at Climate Central, a non-profit research organization centered in Princeton, New Jersey. Areas less than four feet above the ocean’s high tide line can expect to see “severe flooding” by 2030, said Strauss in introducing an interactive web-based map showing which areas are most vulnerable to sea level rise. Coastal power plant operators can use the Climate Central map to identify the vulnerability of their facilities to storm surge flooding. Statewide, 526,000 acres of land that’s home to 374,000 people is vulnerable to severe flooding, according to the report. Cities with the largest total exposed populations are Stockton, Huntington Beach, San Mateo, Foster City, Sacramento, Alameda, Redwood City, Los Angeles, Union City, and San Francisco. “In Los Angeles, more than 11,000 people and 6,000 homes could be endangered, in addition to the many millions of dollars of potential damage that roads and key infrastructure may face,” Strauss said. Climate Central plans to issue additional reports that outline the vulnerability and likely consequences of floods hitting power plants and other industrial facilities. Right now its maps detail the number of acres and residents that could be flooded under various storm surge levels, for instance a one, two, three, or four foot surge. Meanwhile, Strauss recommended that emergency planning authorities use the maps to develop adaptation plans aimed at maintaining beaches and wetlands that provide buffers against coastal flooding, building sea walls and raising important structures, preventing future development in low-lying coastal zones, and planning for an orderly retreat from flood-prone areas that can’t be protected. The report and map are based upon research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. * * * * * In the ongoing saga of the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick admittedly obtaining Heartland Institute documents under false pretenses, Heartland released an analysis of one key document March 14 that thickens the plot. In the incident, Gleick released a document he represented as being from Heartland--a climate change skeptics’ group--outlining the institute’s fund-raising strategy. However, Heartland said the analysis of the electronic document by Juola & Associates tends to show that Gleick himself was the author. Release of the document--which Heartland claims potentially was forged--resulted in extensive negative media coverage of the climate change skeptics’ group. Gleick was unavailable for comment. The Pacific Institute placed him on leave Feb. 27 and retained an independent investigator to examine what happened.

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