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Sea Level Rise Protection
Dwight Worden | City Council Member

This is a brief update on sea level rise issues, following my Sandpiper Article in the September 2019 issue. As a refresher, Del Mar adopted a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan in 2018 and submitted it to the Coastal Commission for certification as part of the City Local Coastal Program (LCP). It favors sand replenishment, a living levee, and river dredging as strategies to address rising seas and rejects managed retreat. Coastal Commission staff asked for 25 “modifications” to the Plan. Importantly, the Coastal staff did NOT ask for modifications to the section of the City Plan rejecting Managed Retreat. The 25 suggested modifications did, however, raise many issues that were not acceptable to Del Mar, some arguably, a backdoor to retreat.

In January council agreed to withdraw and resubmit the City Adaptation Plan in order to restart the Coastal Commission time clock which would otherwise expire. Since then high-level staff-to-staff talks are underway, and reports are that progress is being made. The next talks are in March. Del Mar’s Adaptation Plan is expected to be back before the Coastal Commission in July.

Del Mar retains all its options. If we reach agreement with Coastal staff on key points we can get certification of a Plan acceptable to the city that is binding on the Commission. If not, Del Mar retains the right to withdraw its application and stand on our existing LCP certified in 2001. Because the 2001 City LCP does not address sea level rise, it would leave the Commission to interpret and apply sea level rise rules as it deems best, not ideal for Del Mar leaving us at risk of forced managed retreat.

Certification of our Adaptation Plan is important.

• Only the LCP is binding on the Commission. Without the Adaptation Plan and its rejection of managed retreat the city and private parties remain at risk of forced retreat.
• Funding for sand replenishment and our other favored strategies is more likely if our program is certified in our LCP.
• Resource agency (Fish and Wildlife, State Lands Commission, Army Corps, etc.) and Coastal Commission approval are required for Del Mar to get a Sand Compatibility and Opportunistic Use Program (SCOUP) permit and to implement sand replenishment and dredging. This is more difficult if our Plan is not in our LCP.
• Del Mar’s Plan is a good one. We spent years and lots of effort on it. It will work for Del Mar. In my opinion it complies with the Coastal Act and should be certified as the controlling document. Dropping the Plan and relegating Coastal controls back to 2001 is a much less favorable outcome for Del Mar.

It would be premature to withdraw now. Let’s complete the talks, see where things stand, and then decide whether to continue or withdraw.


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