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A new San Mateo County civil grand jury report has found that projects to address sea level rise in the county face funding challenges and delays.
The grand jury, an independent group of 19 citizens who investigate county issues, released the report last week along with a news release highlighting main takeaways from the 43-page report.
According to the report, titled “San Mateo County: California’s Ground Zero for Sea Level Rise,” more people and property are at risk from rising seas in San Mateo County than any other California county.
The report estimates that homes, businesses, wastewater facilities and transportation infrastructure like highways, Caltrain and San Francisco International Airport are all at risk of damage from flooding, which could cost more than $1 billion.
Coastside communities are also vulnerable to flooding and erosion.
“Sea level rise is a complex problem with an uncertain timetable that demands ongoing long-term solutions. It requires people to think differently and to truly collaborate,” the report reads.
The county’s Flood and Sea Level Rise Resiliency District, known as OneShoreline, coordinates countywide projects to address flooding, sea level rise and coastal erosion.
“Sea level rise is a complex problem with an uncertain timetable that demands ongoing long-term solutions. It requires people to think differently and to truly collaborate”Report
But these projects take five to 10 years to plan and construct, require multiple approvals from various counties and agencies, and need state and federal funding sources. Securing funding can be “a complicated, slow, and somewhat costly process,” according to the report.
“Currently, OneShoreline’s operational funding comes primarily from contributions by the County and its twenty cities and towns. It needs a stable source of funding, one that will not be vulnerable to competing concerns of the communities it serves,” the report reads.
The grand jury report recommends that OneShoreline create a revolving low-interest loan fund to support projects.
It also recommends that OneShoreline and the county lobby the federal and state government to make it easier for sea level rise projects to proceed.
Public engagement is also important to address sea level rise, the report says, as some residents might object to the expense of projects or will want to delay action until flooding nears. But delaying projects only makes them more expensive.
The report recommends that OneShoreline earn the confidence of residents through public awareness campaigns.
Elected officials and governing bodies are required to respond to the report’s findings within 60 days and 90 days, respectively.