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High surf from a storm in 2018 sent waves crashing over the Redondo beach break wall washing the bird guano into the marina. As part of the city's plan to address sea level rise, the break wall would be increased. (Photo By Chuck Bennett)

Redondo Beach estimates it would cost roughly $291 million to prepare for a 5.5-foot increase in sea levels by 2100, according to a recently released study.

If the city, however, does nothing and allows King Harbor to be inundated with sea water, which is predicted to occur over time, the damage could cost $79 million, with $7.8 million in potentially lost revenues to the city.

The estimates — which accounted for extreme tide events of up to 7.5-feet above current levels — come from a report to the California State Land Commission, which Redondo Beach unveiled to the public during its City Council meeting Tuesday, June 16. Assembly Bill 691 directs any city with public trust land generating at least $250,000, which includes Redondo, to prepare an assessment on sea level rise.

“Pretty much every coastal city in the state is looking at tens of millions of dollars to address sea level rise,” said Mayor Bill Brand.

In Long Beach, concerns over sea level rise prompted a redesign of the city’s $100 million Belmont Olympic Plaza Pool. An analysis by Long Beach officials estimated that sea levels could rise 11 inches by 2030 and 66 inches by 2100. A draft plan to address the future proposed a series of recommendations. 

Some cities, such as Malibu and San Onofre, where erosion has chipped away at the beach, are already experiencing the effects of rising sea levels.

What the State Lands Commission will do with the report submitted by Redondo Beach — or those submitted by other cities — is not completely clear, said Stephen Proud, Redondo Beach Waterfront and Economic Development director.

“We’re hopeful the State Lands Commission will start to look at this on a statewide basis,” Proud said, “and find the resources that are necessary.”

For the city to absorb the nearly $300 million is unrealistic, said Councilman Todd Loewenstein.

“I would imagine when the problem gets worse, the outcry gets louder,” Loewenstein said. “These are problems that are much bigger than a city can handle.”

One suggested improvement is to raise the height of the break wall surrounding the harbor, last increased in the 1990s. That would require the Army Corps of Engineers, along with substantial federal assistance, which could take years, officials said.

“By taking steps now to begin that long federal process that’s required to get the studies and implementation,” said Jon Moore of Noble Consultants, which wrote the report, “that would be a good, wise move.”

Other improvements include raising sea walls in the inner harbor, near the International Boardwalk in the Redondo Beach Pier, as well as more robust shoreline protection. Adjustments and changes to harbor development would also need to take place in a phased approach, according to the study.

The effects of global temperature rises, as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, are expected to increase over time. The sea is expected to rise by about 1.9 feet by 2050, and about 5.5 feet by 2100.

Already extreme high tide events — which happen four times per year and are known as king tides — bring the water level in King Harbor Marina right up to the outer walkways and sometimes even floods the pedestrian path by a few inches. On the International Boardwalk, king tides can send sea water through the drains, forcing store owners to protect their property with sand bags and other barriers.

Councilman John Gran lamented at the council meeting that the city had a chance to make some improvements through its deal with CenterCal Properties to develop the waterfront.

Under the proposal, which has since been shelved and tied up in litigation, the developer would have increased the level of the marina in certain parts. But city officials acknowledged those plans would not have covered the entire harbor.

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