A $ 545 million groundbreaking project to improve flood protection along the San Francisco Bay South coastline

San Francisco Bay is world-famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and many of the tech companies ringing at its ends.

But more and more, scientists and political leaders are realizing that the bay is more of a scenic marvel: it also poses an increasingly serious threat to millions of residents and hundreds of billions of dollars of property across the bay – from neighborhoods to highways to airports – as the days continue to rise slowly but steadily.

On Thursday, state, federal and local leaders broke ground in a recent effort to reduce risk, embarking on a $ 545 million project to protect San Jose’s shoreline from winter floods and rising sea levels from climate change.

The project, led by the Army Corps of Engineers, will build four miles of engineered 15-foot-high soil and clay ridges near Elviso and restore 2,900 acres of Cargill’s former industrial salt evaporation ponds back into tidal swamp soils, helping slow storm surge energy for fish and livestock. bar.

The new ladders will replace the old strips of dirt 6 to 10 feet high, and offer greater protection against flooding to areas north of Highway 237, including key facilities such as a sewage treatment plant in the area, railway lines and houses of 5,500 people.

“Climate change is real,” said Colonel Antoinette Gantt, division commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Regional Office in San Francisco. “That means there must be change. We can not do the same things we have done for years and years. We must continue to move forward. “

San Francisco Bay has risen by 8 inches in the last 100 years, according to the tide gauge at Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge and other devices. As the Earth continues to warm, melting ice caps and expanding seawater volume, scientists estimate that Gulf waters will rise another 1 to 2 feet by 2050 and 5 to 7 feet by 2100.

“We’ve built mega cities of the world on beaches,” said Gary Griggs, a respected professor of earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz University. “We did not think about sea level rise 100 years ago, and now we have to pay the price. Whether it’s Jakarta, or Miami or San Francisco, everyone has the same problems.”

The South San Gulf Coast Coastline project, hit by irregularities and cost delays, is the latest major effort to address rising flood threats around the bay. Others include a $ 5 billion project to rebuild the mighty sea wall along the San Francisco Ambercadero from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Giants’ Ball Ground, where flooding is increasingly common during large storms; A $ 587 million project to build higher scaffolding around San Francisco International Airport to prevent runways from flooding during high tides and storms; And a $ 4 billion bid to raise Highway 37 in the North Bay.

The South Bay project celebrated on Thursday is divided into three massive phases.

Construction of the first half of Phase 1 is expected to continue until January 2024. The ancillary works will extend from Alviso Marina County Park to Artesian Slough near the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Sewage Facility, a plant that serves 1.4 million people in eight cities. Is at high risk of flooding.

Like New Orleans, the Elviso community sits below sea level due to over-pumping of groundwater generations ago that caused the land to sink. It has been flooded many times in the last 75 years.

The second half of Phase 1 will increase flood defenses from Artesian Slough east to Coyote Creek. He is on hold while construction planning, access points, transport routes, preparation and facilitation are still in progress.

The project is a partnership between the Army Corps, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the state’s Coastal Preservation Authority. Planning is underway for Phase 2 and Phase 3, which will ultimately provide protection against similar flooding north of Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto sometime after 2030, likely at a cost of over $ 1 billion.

South San Francisco Bay Coastline ...
The South San Francisco Coastline project has three phases. The plans call for raising embankments, restoring tidal swamps and taking other steps to increase flood protection against the backdrop of rising sea levels in the coming decades. A groundbreaking event was held on Thursday, April 14, 2022 for work on Phase 1 near Elviso.

Environmental groups claim the project is critically needed. But they criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for moving too slowly. The corps first agreed with the Water District on the project in 2005.

“The project is vital,” said David Lewis, CEO of Save the Bay, an Oakland-based environmental group. “The only problem is that it took so long and became so expensive.”

Lewis said regional planners, led by the Gulf Conservation and Development Commission, a state agency, have not done enough to coordinate Gulf Front development and flood defenses with cities and nine counties in the Gulf region. Also, technology companies, including some of the richest in the world whose headquarters will benefit from flood protection, like Google, have not contributed to the costs.

The Gulf area is further away in sea level rise treatment than many other areas in the world. But the costs are likely to be enormous.

Out of the $ 545 million price tag for Phase 1 of Thursday’s project, $ 124 million came from the federal government, $ 61 million came from AA measurement, $ 12 package tax last year Gulf Bay voters in 2016 for flood control, and the rest is district responsibility the water. The price tag has tripled from the original estimates several years ago after the military corps did not estimate the cost of recognition materials and prices went up.

But for officials on Thursday, finally seeing heavy equipment on the waterline was cause for celebration.

Dick Santos, a native of Elviso whose home has been flooded three times since the 1950s, said work remains to be done.

“I wish my dad was here to see it today,” Santos said. “He will be pleased.”

SAN JOSEA, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 14: Construction equipment for the South San Francisco Coastline project was photographed along Pond A12 at Alviso Marina Park Park on Thursday, April 14, 2022, in San Jose, California. The first half of Phase 1 flood control project is due to end in January 2024. (Aric Crabb / Bay Area News Group)

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