California will face a terrible choice: Save cliff-side homes or public beaches from rising seas

California will face a terrible choice: Save cliff-side homes or public beaches from rising seas

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: July 11, 2018 SNIP: Like an ax slowly chopping at the trunk of a massive tree, waves driven by sea-level rise will hack away the base of cliffs on the Southern California coast at an accelerated pace, a recent study says, increasing land erosion that could topple some bluffs and thousands of homes sitting atop them. California officials from Santa Barbara to San Diego will face an awful choice as the sea rises, the U.S. Geological Survey study says: save public beaches enjoyed by millions, or close them off with boulders and concrete walls to armor the shore and stop the waves in a bid to save homes. The study predicts coastal land loss on an unimaginable scale over the remaining century, up to 135 feet beyond the existing shoreline. “For the highest sea-level rise scenario, taking an average cliff height of more than 25 meters, the total cliff volume loss would be more than 300 million meters by 2100,” it says. One of the study’s authors, Patrick Barnard, a USGS research geologist, tried to explain the issue in a way that laypeople can understand. “It’s a huge volume of material,” he said. “We place this in a context of dump truck loads. It would be 30 million dump trucks full of material that will be eroded from the cliffs.” The trucks would stretch around the globe multiple times, he said. According to the statement’s synopsis of the study, “Without the supply of sand from eroding cliffs, beaches in southern California may not survive rising sea levels — and bluff-top development may not withstand the...