Operating on the idea that sea level rise and its associated effects of flooding and erosion often create more work than one city can handle, a subcommittee of the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo has formed with the goal to secure funding and tackle climate change issues for the benefit of the whole. 

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine said inspiration for the subcommittee sparked after a water summit the county held in the spring. 

“(There was) a call by Congresswoman (Jackie) Speier for the county and cities to come together to collaborate more effectively on the challenges of sea level rise,” Pine said. 

So in the last few months C/CAG’s Countywide Water Coordination Committee has formed an 18-member staff advisory team that is currently getting itself organized to help address sea level rise.

The team consists of two co-chairs, San Mateo City Manager and Coastside resident Larry Patterson along with Deputy County Manager Michael Callagy. 

The members represent city and county staff members throughout the county and include Half Moon Bay Director of Public Works John Doughty.  

“I think this is absolutely going to be critical,” Doughty said of the subcommittee. “This is sort of a start at how do we look at these projects and financing.” 

The immediate goal, Pine said, is to have plans together to show the C/CAG board and the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year. 

Almost all 20 cities within San Mateo County are expected to be affected by sea level rise. On the Coastside, the predominate concern will likely be erosion while bayside cities are expecting more dramatic flooding.

In a recent Half Moon Bay City Council meeting, Hilary Papendick, resource conservation program manager for the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, spoke about the need for a collaborative approach to address future risks posed to county infrastructure and noted the appearance of sea level rise seen already. 

“We’ve already seen about eight inches of sea level rise as measured at the San Francisco Bay tide gate,” Papendick told the audience at that October meeting. 

Earlier this year, the County’s Office of Sustainability released a sea level rise vulnerability assessment, and a handful of Coastside sites were identified in that report.

Highway 1 along Surfer’s Beach, the Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside plant, and an old landfill that neighbors Poplar Beach were identified as particularly vulnerable to flooding resulting from sea level rise. 

In the first example, Papendick noted the San Mateo County Harbor District’s plans to address erosion risks through its pilot beach replenishment project. 

For the SAM plant, Papendick suggested that the staff could look at raising berms, waterproofing equipment and investing in a renewable energy source that could help power the plant in the event of a power failure. 

Papendick said that the county has addressed some of the erosion issues at the old landfill site by putting in a concrete block mat to help hold it in place but may need to consider relocating all or part of the garbage buried there decades earlier. 

The county is currently looking at the vulnerabilities of the South Coast, an area previously not addressed by the vulnerability assessment report.

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