Siegel featured in Marin Magazine article on challenges of elevated sea levels
With confident strides, Stuart Siegel leads me along the muddy shore of China Camp State Park’s expansive wetlands. As the coastal resilience specialist with the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and a research professor of Earth and Climate Science at San Francisco State University, Siegel has walked this path countless times.
In contrast, my steps are tentative as I envision my next footfall will send me reeling into the muck.
We have left our cars on the edge of North San Pedro Road, the narrow passage that winds through the park. Siegel has invited me here to discuss a timely subject — the challenges sea level rise will bring to Marin County.
This remote salt marsh and lonely road may seem inconsequential given the troublesome topic, but as Siegel points out, this back road represents the heart of the problem.
“North San Pedro Road has a long history of flooding during king tides,” he says, referring to the extreme high tides that arrive during the winter solstice. “When the road is underwater, it is effectively closed.” If an accident or related flooding blocks the other end of the road that continues into Central San Rafael, Siegel adds, “then Peacock Gap and the other hillside neighborhoods become isolated. If someone needs an ambulance, it’s either wait for the flooding to recede or they’ll be requesting a helicopter.”
While the entire county’s peninsula is known for rural beauty, Marin’s scenic coastline draws the most visitors. It is, after all, a unique patch-work of small harbors and seaside towns, solitary beaches and picturesque bays. It is a place of calm estuaries and rugged headlands. Few counties in the state can claim such an interwoven relationship with the sea.
This distinctive geography also means Marin is one of California’s most vulnerable waterfront areas when it comes to sea level rise.