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'A Confused Interpretation'



In her story "Flood Watch" (Sept. 26), Elaine Weinreb quotes county Planning Director John Ford as saying, "The California Coastal Commission seems to be undergoing a shift and appears less resistant to efforts to protect the shoreline," with the follow-up of, "Their traditional [standard] has always been the Coastal Act, but the Coastal Act was written before sea level rise was a reality."

This is a confused interpretation of shoreline protection, the direction of the Coastal Commission in general and the durability of the Coastal Act. Using hard armoring (levees, seawalls, rip rap, etc.) destroys coastal habitats, which is why state agencies generally call for other options, such as restoration, "soft" solutions like cobble and sand, and managed retreat of structures where possible.

Humboldt County's coastal wetlands, which include the marshes and sloughs, will be drowned if unable to shift inland as sea level rises, which will erase the unique ecosystems providing habitat for plants, birds, fishes and insects.

The Coastal Commission's 2015 sea level rise guidance acknowledges, "Most significantly, hard structures form barriers that impede the ability of natural beaches and habitats to migrate inland over time. If they are unable to move inland, public recreational beaches, wetlands and other habitats will be lost as sea level continues to rise." Commissioners have been increasingly resistant to approving new hard armoring or allowing repair of outdated seawalls, preferring to encourage more long-term solutions.

As for the Coastal Act itself, it (among other things) mandates the protection of public access and recreation along the coast, coastal habitats and other sensitive resources — these are ever more relevant given the impending impacts of sea level rise. The Coastal Commission is not moving away from the Coastal Act but upholding its finest values. I hope Humboldt County can do the same.

Jennifer Savage, Manila

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