Climate-Change Denial in Alameda

As sea levels rise, the Island will face the most serious flooding in the East Bay. But officials have been slow to float sustainable solutions.


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Photo by D. Ross Cameron

Coastal communities face an uphill climb in terms of finding sustainable solutions to sea-level rise.

In January 2016, storms packed a punch that lasted for three days in Alameda. Fed by a series of powerful weather systems that pummeled the Bay Area over the New Year, seawater poured through cracks in the seawall, gushing loudly along Veteran’s Court before disappearing into the drain. Dog walkers stopped to watch the unusually high waves and their impact, which they variously described as “unnerving” and “worrisome.”

But despite the massive challenges facing low-lying coastal communities around the globe, Paul Beusterien finds hope in the example of the Netherlands, which remains one of most densely populated countries on Earth, even though two-thirds of its land mass is vulnerable to flooding. “This is a story that is so much bigger than Alameda,” he said. Solutions need to be found as quickly as possible, he continued, to give communities time to respond to this massive challenge, as sustainably as possible. “But I feel it’s just a matter of thinking about it and dealing with it.”

Just then, the king tide reached its apex along the Alameda shoreline. For a moment, there was stillness, as if the sea was holding its breath. Then slowly, ever so slowly, the tide began to recede again, sparing the Island of flooding—for now.


Published online on March 20, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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