Click photo to enlarge

Arcata is continuing to be proactive in its preparations for sea level rise after being awarded an $86,000 grant from the California Coastal Commission.

”We're just really looking at how we're going to have to adapt to climate change and sea level rise,” Environmental Services Deputy Director Karen Diemer said. “The city is starting to analyze all of the critical facilities.”

The city was one of 20 cities, counties and nonprofits to receive funds.

Arcata was awarded the grant last week to design and investigate the feasibility of “living shorelines” or fringe salt marshes to protect vulnerable city facilities such as the wastewater treatment plant and Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, Diemer said.

The marshes would protect existing levees in waterways like Humboldt Bay by diffusing the brunt of the waves, Diemer added.

Staff also will quantify the combined carbon sequestration potential of the proposed 22-acre salt mash, and the McDaniel Slough wetland and Arcata Baylands/Jacoby Creek Estuary enhancement projects, according to an environmental services press release.

In the past century, sea level has risen by 7 to 8 inches, Diemer wrote in an email.

”On Humboldt Bay, sea level rise is greater because we live in a seismically active area and the ground has been dropping in elevation,” Diemer wrote. “Consequently, sea level in the bay may have increased by more than 18 inches over the past century.”

In California, it's anticipated to rise by as much as 55 to 65 inches by 2100, according to the National Research Council, Diemer added.

Mayor Mark Wheetley said it's becoming a “front-burner issue.”

”It's an issue that's not going to go away,” Wheetley said. “We'll prepare ourselves and be smart about how we learn to deal with it.”

The city already has completed Federal Emergency Management Agency retrofit upgrades in addition to the McDaniel Slough and Arcata Baylands projects, and is in the process of upgrading its coastal plan.

”I think part of the reason we were funded is it's a convergence of all those things,” Wheetley said. “We have been doing those things, we're making those changes, incorporating those projects, and we have talked about it with the other changes in land use or projects that would occur in those portions of the coastal zone that are subject to potential sea level rise.”

If the marsh appears to be viable, staff will enter the design and construction phase, and then look for implementation funds, Diemer said.

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.