From the pedestrian bridge between the Oakland Coliseum and the BART station, the view of Damon Slough–a 25-foot-wide canal of muddy, litter-choked water–belies its increasing prominence in the flood-futures of east Oakland. A study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission did the math, adding the impacts of rising sea levels on these Oakland flatlands to predictions of more frequent, more extreme storm events and urban runoff. “That’s when water starts coming out of manholes,” says Kris May, a coastal engineer who worked on the study. Redevelopment plans for the Coliseum area take some sea level rise into account, but not the water added by storms to aging drainage systems and swollen sloughs. For the area around the Coliseum, the extra effects could stall freeways and transit lines, turn underpasses into lakes, and wet utility boxes. It could also add one more safety worry to local neighborhoods and communities already struggling to get basic services and survive gentrification. “Most people are just thinking in the now,” says Marquita Price of the East Oakland Collective. “They barely know where they are going to get their next meal from, let alone thinking about water in fifty years. We need to start these conversations.”  Water, as always, doesn’t follow plans or respect boundaries or vulnerabilities, it just flows to the low spots. And the lower Oakland flats are in the increasingly wet zone between huge watersheds and an advancing Bay. Read more about what’s going on around the Coliseum and along the San Rafael Canal on AcclimateWest.org   ARO

An easily overlooked slough is pointing a finger of uncertainty at Oakland’s plans for ballpark redevelopment, transit safety and resilient neighborhoods.

From the pedestrian bridge between the Oakland Coliseum and the BART station, the view of Damon Slough–a 25-foot-wide canal of muddy, litter-choked water–belies its increasing prominence in the flood-futures of east Oakland. A study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission did the math, adding the impacts of rising sea levels on these Oakland flatlands to predictions of more frequent, more extreme storm events and urban runoff. “That’s when water starts coming out of manholes,” says Kris May, a coastal engineer who worked on the study. Redevelopment plans for the Coliseum area take some sea level rise into account, but not the water added by storms to aging drainage systems and swollen sloughs. For the area around the Coliseum, the extra effects could stall freeways and transit lines, turn underpasses into lakes, and wet utility boxes. It could also add one more safety worry to local neighborhoods and communities already struggling to get basic services and survive gentrification. “Most people are just thinking in the now,” says Marquita Price of the East Oakland Collective. “They barely know where they are going to get their next meal from, let alone thinking about water in fifty years. We need to start these conversations.”  Water, as always, doesn’t follow plans or respect boundaries or vulnerabilities, it just flows to the low spots. And the lower Oakland flats are in the increasingly wet zone between huge watersheds and an advancing Bay. Read more about what’s going on around the Coliseum and along the San Rafael Canal on AcclimateWest.org   ARO

About the author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is both today’s editor-in-chief and the founding editor of ESTUARY magazine (1992-2001). She enjoys writing in-depth, silo-crossing stories about water, restoration, and science. She’s a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011), frequent contributor of climate change stories to Bay Nature magazine, and occasional essayist for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle (see her Portfolio here). In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.

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