Driving over the Bay flats toward the Dumbarton Bridge’s western approach in San Mateo County it’s easy to imagine how a few feet of sea level rise could submerge the roadway. The bridge touches down only 750 feet from the shoreline, and the approach skims just above the fill it’s built on. At least three to six feet of sea level rise are a virtual certainty by the end of the century. Countywide, a vulnerability assessment found that in a mid-range sea level rise scenario, property worth $34 billion would be flooded on the bayshore and the coast north of Half Moon Bay. Facing that reality, San Mateo County’s leadership has undertaken some of the Bay Area’s boldest steps toward protecting its shores, among them several new multi-agency initiatives. “It’s not realistic to think that each city could address these challenges singlehandedly,” says County Supervisor Dave Pine, chair of the board of the county’s new flood resiliency district. “We wanted to create an organization that could work across jurisdictions and create expertise for the long run.”
Cariad Hayes Thronson covers legal and political issues for Estuary News. She has served on the staffs of several national publications, including The American Lawyer. She is a long-time contributor to Estuary News, and some years ago served as its assistant editor. She lives in San Mateo with her husband and two children.