Sea level rise
A new program at Coyote Point in San Mateo aims to show dangers of sea level rise. Review file photo

Want to get an idea for what sea level rise might mean in the next quarter century? Take a stroll near the coastline sometime over the next couple of days and you might get a good idea.

Organizers from the California King Tides Project, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the county Office of Sustainability invited locals to stroll out to Mirada Surf West on Tuesday to get a glimpse of the future on the first day of the season’s king tides.

“This is a good look at what the future is going to look like,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley standing feet away from an eroding bluff top at Surfer’s Beach Tuesday morning. “It’s going to look like this in 25 years.”

Sea level rise is predicted to bring ocean levels higher by two inches to one foot by the year 2030, said Hilary Papendick, climate resiliency specialist for the county. And higher levels are predicted in years to come. Typically, Papendick said, a king tide event will raise the ocean levels by an additional foot.

The king tides are based on gravitational pull from the sun and moon when the two celestial bodies are aligned. The highest high tides are in December, Papendick said, but there are also high tides in November, January and June. The stormy weather in the late fall and winter months can exacerbate tide reach, especially on the Coastside, Papendick said.

“High tides is one component,” Papendick said. “Six to eight feet of swell is going to be the main drive of flooding.”

El Niño is further affecting sea level this year, Papendick said, bringing in roughly another foot on top of the foot brought on by the king tides.

As the group of roughly a dozen chatted about king tides and sea level rise, construction workers were busy preparing for a rock slope protection along the nearby Surfer’s Beach bluff top. A joint project of the California Department of Transportation and San Mateo County, the construction aims to reduce erosion and prevent collapse of the Highway 1 embankment.

“Protection is sort of a temporary fix,” Horsley said, citing the long-term plans to eventually move Highway 1 eastward.

The problem was exacerbated by the manmade jetty, Horsley said, and plans to dredge the harbor and replenish the sand at Surfer’s Beach will provide a bit of a buffer as well.

“We’ve done a lot of things to alter nature, and we pay the price,” he said.

Billed as “Coffee and King Tides,” the event attendants milled about the bluff top taking photos, and helping themselves to coffee and cinnamon rolls.

“This is good awareness,” said Half Moon Bay Mayor Marina Fraser, adding that for the locals, though, it’s not much of a surprise. “We have a higher level of awareness, bcause our beautiful coastline is eroding.”

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