Shoreline erosion at Tioga Avenue 2

Sand City's Tioga Avenue, seen here in 2011, has been damaged extensively by shoreline erosion, a consequence of global climate change as well as local sand mining.

In case you hadn't heard, southern Monterey Bay has the worst coastal erosion in the state. 

And unless you're just waking up from a very long nap, you probably know that climate change-fueled sea level rise continues to increase, and even in the best-case scenario, it's not expected to let up for many decades to come. 

The combination of those two factors puts the coastal communities of southern Monterey Bay in a uniquely precarious position, which is largely why The Nature Conservancy, using grant funding from the California State Coastal Conservancy, commissioned a study to examine the fiscal impacts of various adaptive strategies in the face of sea level rise. 

The study, which was completed in March and released last week, is intended to arm local decision makers with the best possible information when considering options in dealing sea level rise based on current projections.

The study combines projections for coastal hazard impacts such as erosion, sea level rise and wave impacts, with economic analysis of the impacts on man-made structures and natural resources. Those analyses include loss of private property, recreational resources and ecological function of coastal habitats. 

In a statement from The Nature Conservancy, Kelly Leo, a coastal project director at TNC, says the results were unexpected. 

"While we knew that shoreline armoring is an environmentally problematic decision for California’s beaches, our study indicates that, surprisingly, it is a bad financial investment as well," she says. "The results of this study change the way we think about the real costs of our coastal adaptation approaches and call into question our traditional shoreline protection responses.

"Shoreline armoring no longer makes ecological or economic sense for many of California’s coastal communities," she adds. 

The study examined four regions in southern Monterey Bay: Moss Landing, Marina, Sand City and Del Monte Beach. At each location, various options were studied based on stakeholder input. 

Those options included armoring, beach nourishment, managed retreat and doing nothing. The study looked at the economic benefits of each, based on projections, for the years 2030, 2060 and 2100. 

In all locations, the least economically beneficial alternative in the long-term was shoreline armoring. Only in 2030 did it not rank last in terms of benefit. 

In the TNC statement, Kimberley Cole, chief of planning, engineering and environmental compliance for the city of Monterey, lauds the report for its importance to local municipal planners. 

"This report comes at a critical time in our coastal adaptation planning process for the city of Monterey, which is currently working to develop a certified Local Coastal Program," she says. "The analysis provides invaluable information that will inform the planning process for the city and neighboring communities."

The full report can be read here

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