California Today: A Growing Threat on the Shoreline
The New York Times 8-17-17
The Pacific has been gobbling up the California coast with growing voraciousness.
A study this year by the United States Geological Survey predicted that as much as two thirds of Southern California’s beaches could be lost by the end of the century.
Among the variables, said Patrick Barnard, a geologist and author of the report, are rising seas and intensified storms, both linked to climate change, as well as hundreds of river dams that are blocking the flow of sand to beaches.
It all spells trouble for buildings and homes perched along the shore.
The peril grew vivid last year in Pacifica, a seaside city just south of San Francisco. Widely shared drone footage showed apartment buildings poised at the edge of a cliff as mounds of dirt crumbled from its face and into the ocean.
The structures were declared uninhabitable and torn down.
In Big Sur this year, erosion accelerated by the wet winter knocked out a bridge and sent cascades of mud tumbling onto Highway 1.
And more recently, a sliding hillside along the Humboldt County coast has endangered a 1949 lighthouse.
Geologists say the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, a replica that sits atop a bluff in the fishing town of Trinidad, could slip into the ocean if it isn’t reinforced or moved by winter.
An online fund-raising campaign aims to raise $100,000 to save the structure.
Dr. Barnard, of the United States Geological Survey, said California could expect to see such dramas unfold with increasing regularity, even if the models can’t yet make long-range predictions about any given beach or cliff.
“The open question on the climate side is, ‘How quickly is this going to happen? Is it going to be 30 years or 50 years?’” he said. “But we know it’s happening. And we know it’s coming.”