Sea Level Rise Planning for the City of L.A.

Project Leads: Juliette Finzi Hart, Phyllis Grifman, Alyssa Newton Mann

 

The Department of Water and Power's Scattergood Generating Station is located just above sea level and may be vulnerable to accelerated sea level rise. (Photo credit: Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.Californiacoastline.org)

The Department of Water and Power's Scattergood Generating Station is located just above sea level and may be vulnerable to accelerated sea level rise. (Photo credit: Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.Californiacoastline.org)

The Problem

The City of L.A. owns and maintains critical coastal infrastructure, including two power plants, two sewage treatment plants, and the Port of Los Angeles. All are vulnerable to impacts from coastal change and accelerating sea level rise. Planning for the impacts of climate change (adaptation planning) is therefore a priority for the City of Los Angeles.

Our Solution

The City of L.A. engaged USC Sea Grant, in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative on Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC), and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, USA (ICLEI), to develop a city-led, science-based, and stakeholder-supported process to help the city begin planning for the impacts of climate change. The first effort  focuses on the impacts of coastal change and sea level rise on the city's coastal infrastructure and properties.

The process we developed, AdaptLA, is an iterative planning process that requires the city to assess its physical, social and economic vulnerability to sea level rise (and eventually other climate change impacts), identify adaptation measures and strategies and implement and monitor these measures. 

Major Findings

The full report was released in January 2014. click on the image to download the report.

The full report was released in January 2014. click on the image to download the report.

As new and more precise science is ever-emerging, we advocate an "adaptive adaptation planning" approach that urges the City to incorporate new science as it becomes available. This ensures that the City is always planning based on the best scientific information. Read the full report.

The Role of Science

Sea levels are expected to rise up to 6 feet along the California coast, but during winter storms coastal water levels can be elevated by an additional 16 feet.  Determining the full range of imapcts, then, is necessary for effective planning.

In this project, we were able to use a state-of-the-art coastal storm modeling system (CoSMos), developed by Dr. Patrick Barnard and colleagues at the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  CoSMoS is a a numerical model that can predict coastal flooding due to both sea level rise and storms driven by climate change. 

Partners