Keeping SFO at bay from sea level rise

- Sea level rise, brought about by global warming, is a clear and present danger to low lying areas on the coast and around San Francisco Bay. I looked at two of the Bay Area's most critical low lying areas that are already taking action: our airports.
   
Projections show that the Bay will be three feet higher by the end of this century, rising as much as 12 feet higher in the next.  Coastal airports, such as San Francisco International and Oakland Airport., are particularly vulnerable especially as waves, created by windy storms ride atop that higher bay sea level.
"All of our airports around the country are very focused on how they can insure that the infrastructure is resilient. We saw this very vividly when we had Hurricane Sandy in New York that swamped LaGuardia Airport for several days," says Michael Huerta, the Federal Aviation Administration's Administrator.
   
We went out on the San Francisco's airfield today which has been thinking about and acting on such possibilities since the 1980's when it first build tall sea walls in areas subject to large storm driven waves. In the 1990's, concrete walls were added to other newly vulnerable areas.   In the early 2000's, expandable, vinyl barriers were added as he threat increased. "What we're doing now is taking the latest projections. We are studying where our vulnerabilities exist and we're looking at what type of mitigation strategies we want to implement, says Doug Yakel, SF Airport's spokesman.
   
That is also true at Oakland International. "We are making sure our infrastructure development includes way to mitigate the impact of sea level rise and we're studying our shoreline very closely to determine exactly what steps we'll take," says Keonis Taylor, Oakland Airport's spokeswoman.
   
There is another danger; more fierce storms due to climate change. "We're looking at not only sea level rise, but we're also looking at what we call the 100 year flood. This is the 1% chance of a major flood that could happen that might affect our shoreline," says SFO's Yakel. It's paying off. "San Francisco does a great job or maintaining its infrastructure and they do amazing things is a relatively small footprint," says FAA Administrator Huerta.
   
Bottom line: the more we learn about the actual amount of sea level rise, the more we can do to protect the vulnerable areas of our airports. But since we don't know ultimately how much higher it will go, this remains, for many years to come, a work in progress.

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