City Officials Review Sea Rise and Sea Wall

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Water breaching a Balboa Island seawall in 2010. — Photo courtesy of city of Newport Beach
Water breaching a Balboa Island seawall in 2010.
— Photo courtesy of city of Newport Beach

There is so much scientific and engineering data regarding the known and projected effects of global warming on the world – and Newport Beach specifically – that one could easily drown in the facts long before the seas hit flood stage on a regular basis.

Newport Beach Director of Public Works, Dave Webb, and Assistant City Engineer, Dr. Bob Stein, shared some of the latest sea-rise information pertinent to Newport Beach at this week’s Speak Up Newport meeting at the Civic Center.

The duo addressed five questions posed by members of the organization: protection of the community from winter El Nino floods; sea wall height to keep bay and ocean waters out; construction options; repair or replacement of walls in time for this presumed ocean onslaught; and cost and payment plans.

Sign showing the proposed height of seawalls. — Photo by Richard Simon ©
Sign showing the proposed height of seawalls.
— Photo by Richard Simon ©

The decades-old Balboa Island seawalls “hold fairly well,” Webb said, but there are sections that he noted require immediate attention, with structural Band-Aids affixed, along with annual dredging and sand replacement. “There may be 20 years left,” he added.

The  interim solution, he said, is to incrementally increase the height of the sea walls from nine inches to one foot to protect from normal “over topping” flooding.  

“We need to watch what’s happening this November; we may have to install sandbags on the lowest sections of the wall,” Stein said.  

The real immediate danger “is not from high tides, but from rainfall,” Stein warned. If there is a coincidence of very high tide, high winds and heavy El Nino rains, not only will sea walls be unable to keep sea water out, but they will keep rain water in, thereby flooding parts of the island, along with many homes with insufficient elevation.

“City emergency teams simply will be unable to pump out the water,” he said.

For more information, visit NewportBeachCA.gov/seawalls.

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