Isaac Pearlman
About the author

Isaac Pearlman covers sea level rise, flooding, and other topics for ESTUARY. A Bay Area native, Isaac's writing is informed by his master's degree in environmental science, as well as many adventures from living and working in South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. His stories and essays have been featured in Earth Island Journal, the Progressive Populist, and Ecosystems among other outlets.

Articles by Isaac Pearlman

Delta Study Predicts Stronger Floods and Less Water Supply

Though most don’t realize it, practically all Californians are linked to the Bay-Delta region via its triple function as a source of drinking water for some 27 million Californians, a critical water provider for the Golden State’s hefty agricultural industry, and a rich and unique ecosystem. But for those who live in the legal Delta zone – some 630,000 people – the braided weave of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their maze of associated wetlands and levees provides...
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Retrofitted Houseboat IDs Fish in the Shallows

On a hazy Delta morning at Isleton’s B & W Resort, more than a dozen trucks are already neatly arrayed in the double-long parking spaces with empty trailers facing the boat launch: evidence of fishers and boaters getting an early start on their Labor Day weekend. Randy Mager, sporting a flannel shirt and worn baseball cap, radiates earnest enthusiasm, which for a 20-year state government veteran is as refreshing and rare as a Delta smelt. “I am more excited about...
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Big Projects, Wet Feet: Mega Developments Hedge on Sea-Level Rise

On September 3, 2019, Golden State Warriors CEO Rick Welts stood proudly in front of the newly inaugurated $1.4 billion Chase Center basketball arena. “A brand new journey starts today,” he promised the assembled luminaries and fans. Having built on Mission Bay’s watery footprint, the Warriors defended their new arena against sea-level rise, saying in an official statement it will stay dry in 2100 “even with the anticipated 36 inches of sea-level rise.” Just three weeks later, a massive $1...
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San Francisco Prepares for Water From All Directions

By Isaac Pearlman “Even a city with as many resources as San Francisco has can’t do this [alone],” says the director of the Port of San Francisco’s Waterfront Resilience Program Lindy Lowe, speaking of the climate change threats looming over the City by the Bay. “It’s too big.” The perils San Francisco faces include three-to-ten feet of sea-level rise this century, a sharp increase in extreme heat days, and more severe floods and drought. As city officials grapple with today’s...
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Sea level rise combined with future coastal storms will be costlier and more destructive to California than earthquakes or wildfires.

A new study by United States Geological Survey researchers examines how future coastal storms and waves will affect California’s shoreline via erosion and flooding in conjunction with sea-level rise. And it puts numbers on the cost and people affected by California’s future storms and waves: about $150 billion in property and 600,000 people by 2100. “Bay Area communities account for two-thirds of the projected impacts across the state over the next century,” explains lead author Patrick Barnard. “Many communities, such...
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Therese McMillan inherits huge challenges as the new Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The Bay Area region is beleaguered by traffic, a crippling housing shortage, and growing inequality. MTC plays a role in all these areas. “We have a master coordinator role in being able to knit the region together through land use and transportation planning, and major dollar investments,” says McMillan of the MTC, which distributes billions of public transportation dollars collected annually by local, state and federal governments, although she notes that the agency doesn’t “have land use authority, or our...
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Dave Halsing is in a race against sea level rise to restore the South Bay salt ponds.

 “The existential challenge is doing marsh restoration fast enough to get it into place and established before sea level rise really starts to kick in,” says Halsing, the new Executive Project Director for the massive, 15,000-acre South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. The thoughtful and reflective restoration manager is seizing the reins from previous director John Bourgeois to lead the 50-year, $1 billion effort that is the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast. “I had to take a...
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In 2019 Los Angeles property owners will see a new addition to their tax bill: a tax on impervious surface area to fund stormwater projects.

Measure W, approved by voters last November, will tax residents 2.5 cents per square foot of impermeable surface on their parcels. The initiative will raise an estimated $300 million per year to fund rain gardens, new parks, and watershed restoration in order to capture and clean the precious rainwater sliding off the county’s concrete and asphalt surfaces. Though the county currently captures and stores enough rain to meet the consumption needs of one million residents, the Measure W tax revenue could...
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Calculating the Cost of Adaptation

What makes a bond green? When the debt is issued specifically to bankroll projects with tangible environmental benefits. So when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission faced a hefty price tag for major infrastructure overhauls, they chose to go green. “The goal is to get to $1 trillion in annual green bond issuances by 2020,” says Mike Brown, the SFPUC environmental manager who oversees the $1.4 billion in green bonds that the commission has issued since 2015. To Brown, the...
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Constellation of Climate Events Lifts State Spirits

“We are seeing events we have never seen before,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird to the over 750 attendees of the California Adaptation Forum on August 28th. Inside the cavernous ballroom of the Sheraton Grand in downtown Sacramento, Laird ticked off to the audience the evidence that climate change is present in California: wildfires burning faster and hotter, rainfall five hundred percent above normal, and longer lasting Central Valley heatwaves. “[Climate change] is happening, we’re experiencing it, and...
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California’s groundwater faces widespread chromium contamination risk resulting from natural, rather than industrial sources.

Chromium’s toxic form, known as hexavalent chromium, is used in steel manufacturing, leather tanning, and wood treatment; its lethal effects were popularized in the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich. But today transformation of the benign form of chromium naturally found in soils poses the larger risk, according to a recent Stanford University study. Dr. Debra Hausladen and her colleagues used a statewide groundwater database to trace the origin of 90,000 chromium samples, and discovered toxic chromium from natural sources is affecting...
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North Bay: Common Ground on a Grand Bayway?

Traffic-choked, flood-prone Highway 37, traversing the northern Bay Area, has been locked for years in a debate between restoration groups and transportation agencies seeking what they thought might be opposing goals: resilient landscapes and a roadway meeting the North Bay’s transportation needs. As part of the Resilient by Design Challenge, the Common Ground team was assigned to bridge the divide over the highway’s future. “Getting committed to a long-term process is like driving cross-country in a car with different people,”...
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San Leandro Bay: Three Cities Confront Common Estuary

There’s no easy way to describe what makes the San Leandro Bay region of the East Bay so unique. Ask a design specialist, like Claire Bonham-Carter of Resilient By Design’s All Bay Collective, and she’ll point to “massive infrastructure--the Oakland airport, the BART station, two major roadways…” On the other hand, community activist Colin Miller of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition says “It’s the people that really makes it special.” Miller and the other All Bay Collective community advocates pushed...
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High Road for the Wettest Highway?

As Bay Area cities and counties grapple with the formidable challenge of preparing for a higher San Francisco Bay, there is perhaps no better example of the obstacles and opportunities than the effort underway to adapt Highway 37. The 21-mile North Bay corridor running from Vallejo to Novato has long been a source of tranquility and frustration. The highway offers sweeping views of tidal baylands dotted with roosting waterfowl and shorebirds plumbing mudflats for food, along with mile-upon-mile of open...
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