West Coast Ports Participate in Conference on Sea Level Rise

Image: Propeller Club of Northern California.

Port officials from around the U.S. and overseas gathered virtually in November to discuss the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise.

Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan delivered the welcoming remarks at the Storms, Flooding and Sea Level Defense Conference, which was hosted by the Propeller Club of Northern California in collaboration with the Society of American Military Engineers.

The conference, now in its fifth year, is the product of collaboration between California ports, including those in Oakland, San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

“The Port of Oakland as well as all California ports are literally on the frontline of mitigating the effects on sea-level rise, not just on our seaport but also on our neighboring communities,” Wan said.

Wan’s agency has nearly 20 miles of waterfront for aviation, commercial real estate and maritime activities.

Other than the major California ports, participants in the conference included representatives from sites in Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private companies dedicated to climate change solutions.

During the gathering, Port of Rotterdam Project Engineer Joost de Nooijer shared the Netherlands’ strategies to combat climate change and rising sea levels. The Dutch are industry experts in climate adaptations. Ninety percent of the City of Rotterdam is below sea level, making their port particularly susceptible to the impacts of rising waters. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, cargo activity in the U.S. generates over $5 trillion a year in economic activity, supporting 31 million domestic jobs. The figures are from 2018 and it’s believed that today’s numbers are likely higher, according to the Oakland seaport.

The Port of Oakland has said that it faces unique coastal challenges to defend against storm surge and sea-level rise, and is engaging in multiple projects to combat it.

They include a likely study on sea-level rise and ground water intrusion to better understand vulnerability to future climate conditions. The Port of Oakland said that it would release a Request for Proposals (RFP) in November for the study with the launch set for 2023.

The port is also working with its neighboring cities to cooperate on projects, studies and funding to address flooding. The port has said that flood vulnerabilities may exist off port property that could impact the seaport facilities.