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Officials: King Tides are the future of the coast
November 25, 2015, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
A bicyclist watches as the season’s first King Tides break along the San Mateo County coastline Tuesday morning at Surfer’s Beach near Pillar Point Harbor.

Supervisor Don Horsley, legislative aide Deborah Hirst and coastal business owner Uli Bisono talk after a county-sponsored event discussing the impacts of sea level rise.

The start of the annual King Tides prompted county officials, environmental experts and coastal activists to gather Tuesday morning at areas where San Mateo County is most vulnerable to sea level rise.

King Tides, which occur when the sun and moon align creating a more powerful gravitational pull, were reported to have washed much further ashore along the coast and in parts of the San Francisco Bay.

San Mateo County officials are asking residents to pay special attention to the shoreline during this time when the tides are at least a foot higher than normal, as it represents what a future of climate change holds.

“The King Tides are gong to be an indicator of what exactly it’s going to be like in the future — King Tides are going to be the new norm and are going to have even more destructive power than today,” said Supervisor Don Horsley while watching the waves crash at Surfer’s Beach on the coast. “We’re looking at ways of being more resilient, protecting the coast and adapting to the future. This King Tide is a look into the future.”

The county is in the midst of yearlong study to determine what assets are vulnerable to sea level rise through a special task force dedicated to collaborating on preparing for the future of climate change.

Surrounded by both a bayfront and coastal zone, San Mateo County has been deemed the most vulnerable in the state when it comes to sea level rise, said Hilary Papendick, climate resiliency specialist with the county’s Office of Sustainability.

Anyone with a camera is encouraged to help participate in the California King Tides Project by photographing various parts of the county that are being affected by the heightened seas and Bay. The pictures can be uploaded to the King Tides Project Facebook or Flicker pages.

These photos, which highlight areas that are susceptible to sea level rise in the near future, will help the county gauge where it needs to adapt, Papendick said.

While some may envision climate change and sea level rise as a far-off problem with scientists having predicted the oceans will rise 3 feet by the end of the century, Papendick noted the King Tides represent what many will witness in their lifetime.

“With an extra foot of water, it could be what sea levels look like every day in 20, 25 years,” Papendick said. “The impacts, especially in the first 20 years, are going to be when we have the combination of high tides and storms. Once the sea level rises even more, it could be an issue we see every day.”

This year’s King Tides are also exacerbated by El Niño as the expanded warmer waters account for about a half-foot increase. The high tides hit different parts of the state at various times and beginning around 8:30 a.m. it rose to about 6.5 feet in Half Moon Bay. At Coyote Point, where supervisors Dave Pine and Carole Groom gathered with Papendick and about 20 members of the public, the tides rose to nearly 6.8 feet. On Wednesday morning, it’s predicted to hit a high of 8.5 feet at Coyote Point in San Mateo, according to tide charts.

Horsley and Half Moon Bay Mayor Marina Fraser said coastside residents have seen the impacts of nearly 1.5 feet of erosion each year as roads and trails become compromised. This week, a joint effort between the city, county and Caltrans begun to make repairs to the riprap at Surfer’s Beach — a project that will temporarily help keep Highway 1 protected just south of Pillar Point Harbor.

“The county is on the forefront of looking at the impacts 50, 60 years from now. But you’ve got to start now,” Fraser said. “It’s all part of climate change, sea level rise, reducing greenhouse gases; there is a huge regional effort.”

The county is working with the state, Federal Emergency Management Agency and will seek collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects and studies related to the impacts of sea level rise, said Deborah Hirst, a legislative aide in Horsley’s office.

“This King Tides event is to help start raising awareness about where we’re already at risk to coastal flooding and thinking ahead to where we need to plan for projects like [Surfer’s Beach],” Hirst said. “We have lots of people really pulling together to help us think about how we can make resilient shorelines across city and county boundaries up and down the state.”

Papendick agreed, noting it will take a regional effort to help prepare the extremely vulnerable San Mateo County for combating the impacts of climate change. The county’s task force will likely finalize its vulnerability assessment next June and long term, there’s a need to consider how to finance projects, Papendick said.

One example, is the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority considering placing a $12 parcel tax that could raise $500 million over 20 years on the June ballot. The proceeds of which could go toward levees and restoring wetlands that provide significant flood protection throughout the nine-county Bay Area. Finding other funding sources for projects to protect critical San Mateo County assets like airports, wastewater treatment facilities and popular trails needs to be a regional priority, Papendick said.

“This is not something that any one jurisdiction can do alone. The solutions need to be cross city as well as cross county; because waters don’t know city boundaries,” Papendick said. “So it’s important to find a sustainable funding source that allows us to collaborate and come up with solutions that are effective and not piecemealed.”

Visit more information about the county’s task force and vulnerability study. Visit or to upload photos for the California King Tides Project.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: county, tides, papendick, level, future, climate,

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