'Sea-Level Rise: A Slow-Moving Emergency' CA State Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy report

The California State Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy was established in 2013 to thoroughly review the challenges ahead in addressing the impacts of sea level rise on California. The Select Committee held four hearings featuring testimony from scientists and industry leaders about potential impacts from sea level rise to the state’s economy and infrastructure. Topics included projected impacts on coastal agriculture, the fishing and aquaculture industry, tourism, ports, roads and bridges, and water and power infrastructure.

This report summarizes the testimony from the hearings, and discusses the risk of sea level rise impacts on California. The report also provides overall key findings and a set of general recommendations for continuing to address sea level rise. 

The Select Committee urges Californians to prepare for the seas to rise by an average of three feet during this century. The nation’s oldest continually operating sea-level gauge, located at Fort Point in the San Francisco Bay, recorded a seven-inch rise in area sea level during the 20th century.

The report illustrates the key segments of California’s economy at risk, primarily California’s coastal agriculture, fishing, and tourist industries, as well as airports, ports, and goods movement will be impacted.

Critical infrastructure at risk includes 3,500 miles of roadways; about 280 miles of railroads; numerous schools, police and fire stations; and hospitals located in the coastal zone.

The Committee also examined how state agencies are addressing sea level rise, and the existing authority granted to state agencies in regards to preparedness and response. Some examples of these efforts as described by agency representatives at the hearings include:

The Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) Pilot Project is led by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) working in partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and with assistance from ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and Caltrans.

BCDC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are leading the development of a collaborative regional planning and implementation program called “Resilient Shorelines” to address sea-level rise and storms, as well as earthquakes.

The Natural Resources Agency, along with other government agencies and non-profit partners, is helping to raise awareness about sea-level rise and its accompanying risks through the California King Tides Initiative.

The California Coastal Commission is working actively with Caltrans to plan for and relocate Highway One in numerous locations along the coast, as well as to integrate the consideration of sea-level rise into major public highway projects, such as the I-5 expansion in San Diego.

The California State Coastal Conservancy has provided funding for development of several regional sea-level rise assessments. Each has a different set of regional and site-specific characteristics that must be factored in to effectively plan for future conditions.

The report concludes, “sea-level rise is a critical threat to Californians and our state’s economy. This has been called a slow-moving emergency, but it is an emergency nonetheless. Therefore, action must be taken now in order to best prepare and adapt for the future. There is a lot of work to be done as we face many impacts from sea-level rise; however, we have time on our side, so let us begin.”


Publication Date: August 2014

Related Organizations:

  • State of California


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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