Climate Change Comes to Laguna
The other day I went to an event for Cottie Petrie-Norris, the newly-elected State Assemblywoman who represents Laguna Beach. She is obviously smart, a great speaker, elegant, and to use a cliché, bubbly. She told us she was on a committee studying climate change and how it will affect California.
Oh boy. Right now: droughts, then raging wildfires, then floods. Less obvious but more pernicious, a gradual rise in the sea level. Coastal areas obviously effected include San Francisco Bay, Santa Monica Bay, San Diego Bay, and right in the middle of the headlights, most of Orange County.
First up is Huntington Beach. Its current beaches will be underwater, and the Huntington pier will be washed away in some giant storm. Just like that, gone.
Fountain Valley is on low land and will be underwater. It will be like the great floods in the early 1930s prior to taming the Santa Ana River. There are photos taken then from the northern bluffs of Costa Mesa—between them and the higher areas of Huntington Beach, it was an angry lake. In the climate changed future, it will be the same. Functionally, Fountain Valley will have become an unprotected bay.
Scroll down to Newport. Even today, during periodic extreme high tides, the peninsula’s streets are awash; ditto Balboa Island. Already, at great cost, Bay Island has installed a completely new, much stronger and higher sea wall. The city wants to do the same with Balboa Island. But those are stalling maneuvers. Eventually, the peninsula will be under water, and all of Newport Bay will be open to the ocean, and the Newport islands will be washed away. It will not happen all that quickly. The city will fight like crazy, but in the end, mother nature, warped by mankind, will win. No contest.
Think of Dana Point and to its south, the San Juan Creek River Valley. It empties into the ocean at Doheny Beach. It drains the western part of the Cleveland National Forest and what is known as the Ortega Highway area stretching all the way to Lake Elsinore. It will become an oblong and protected bay. San Juan Capistrano itself is mostly on higher ground and could become a major port city.
In San Clemente, it is a sure thing the coming storms will wash away all the homes now overlooking the ocean on its cliffs. Hell, already the homes along Capo Beach are under attack, and tens of thousands of yards of sand are and have been imported to create a temporary barrier. If you own a home there, good luck trying to sell it.
Then scroll on up to Laguna Beach. Laguna means lagoon. All of Main Beach will be part of a new lagoon, as will all of downtown. The lagoon also will invade the lower levels of Laguna Canyon.
This will happen in our children’s lifetime. I suppose some sort of sea wall will be built all along the board walk. I shudder to consider what its foundations will consist of. It will have to go down to bedrock (how far down is that?) and attach to it with giant pillars. That will require underwater drilling; it will have to weigh, in aggregate, hundreds of thousands of tons and be crisscrossed with so much rebar it will be staggering. The dimensions will break the calculators because it must be designed to hold back to-be regular hundred-year storms and huge waves pounding on it.
At the same time, it must accommodate unprecedented storm runoff from not just Laguna Canyon, but much of Irvine. That horrible truth will require a huge underground storm drain tunnel at least 20 feet in diameter starting somewhere up the Canyon, running straight down and underneath Broadway, and ending maybe a mile out to sea.
Then consider Laguna’s incredibly beautiful coves. Gone. All of them. Every last one.
The phrase “existential threat” currently is overused. It means the threatened thing will become extinct. For example, Uber is an existential threat to taxi cabs. For Laguna Beach, climate change is an existential threat.
The question quickly shifts to why America does not address the problem. That’s easy. Addressing it at a national level is an existential threat to big oil and all the companies working with or for big oil. They have spent tens of billions on continuous propaganda campaigns denying the validity of climate change and have spent equal amounts on political candidates supporting their position, who block legislation designed to combat climate change.
And there is nothing you can do about it. Sorry.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He is a real estate entrepreneur involved in many nonprofits.