Small Town and Big Marsh Brace for Spreading Bay

Solano County

By Robin Meadows

When heavy rains coincided with an extreme high tide in 2005, water from the Carquinez Strait overtopped flood protections in the City of Benicia. Making matters worse, the high seas also submerged stormwater outfalls. Water backed up stormdrains, inundating historic homes and small businesses. As tides keep rising, scenarios like this will play out more often―and with greater severity―along the Solano County shoreline, which extends 40 miles as the crow flies from San Pablo Bay to the Delta. High risk areas in addition to Benicia include Highway 37 and the Suisun Marsh. In 2016, the City of Benicia—population about 28,000—developed “the first stand-alone climate adaptation plan for a city of its size,” says climate expert Alex Porteshawver, who worked on the project. Most of Solano County’s shoreline is along the Suisun Marsh, which encompasses one-fifth of the jurisdiction and is by far the most extensive area vulnerable to climate-driven flooding. The SF Bay Conservation and Development Commission recently launched a review of the marsh’s 1977 protection plan. “Climate was one of the big topics,” agency coastal scientist Rachel Wigginton, who leads the review.

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Background

County of Solano Sea Level Rise Strategic Program

Benicia Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Suisun Marsh Policy Review

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About the author

Robin Meadows is an independent science journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She covers water and climate change adaptation for Estuary News, is the water reporter for the Bay Area Monitor, and contributes to Bay Nature, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, PLOS Research News and Water Deeply. Robin also enjoys hiking and photography.

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