California Coastal Commission To Recommend Eminent Domain To Combat Sea-Level Rise?

With the recent widespread reports of sea-level rise triggered by global warming, the California Coastal Commission — a state agency which regulates coastal development — plans to release a proposal in early-2019 which provides guidelines to local jurisdictions on how to combat the potential impacts.


The stakes are enormous, as the Commission believes many homes along California’s 1,100 miles of coastline will inevitably be wiped out by a rising ocean.  According to an article by Anne Mulkern in E&E News, Calif. prepares policy for coastal ‘retreat’, the suggested approach in a draft version of the Coastal Commission’s proposal involves “managed retreat” — i.e., buying or condemning threatened homes and relocating them or tearing them down, which would thereafter free the coastline and preserve the beaches.  The Commission argues against relying on sea walls for fear that they would make sandy beaches disappear under rising ocean water.  Needless to say, the proposal is extremely controversial.

What are the Potential Impacts of Sea-Level Rise?

According to various studies prepared, sea-level rise impacts will be astronomical over the next 80 years.  While a rise in sea-level of 2.5-6.5 feet may not seem dramatic, in addition to impacts to many residences and businesses, dozens of wastewater treatment plants and power plants, 250 miles of highway, 1,500 miles of roads, and 110 miles of railways could be at risk.  A recent article by my colleague, John Erskine, appears in the latest issue of California Special Districts magazine, and addresses the potential widespread impacts to California’s coastline.

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