Imperial Beach is not planning ‘managed retreat’


A recently published article (“Nature Retreat,” HCN, 10/15/18) asserts that Imperial Beach is addressing sea-level rise by planning massive moves away from the coastline, technically known as “managed retreat.”

Contrary to the author’s assertion that little has been done to address this “slow-moving catastrophe,” many California coastal communities either recently have or will soon complete plans that address sea-level rise. Imperial Beach is about midway through the process of updating its plan, and managed retreat is not its core adaptation strategy.

The article asserts that Imperial Beach’s coastal developments would need to relocate three blocks inland at a stated cost of $150 million, saying “(Mayor) Dedina’s decision is straight-up revolutionary” because it goes against the American principle of preservation of private property rights. This “decision” is really an opinion, not an approved city strategy.

Imperial Beach is a leader in championing a phased or “trigger-based” approach to sea-level rise in California. This means we will use various adaptation strategies in the short run, such as sea walls and sand replenishment, until the frequency of flooding and other “triggers” indicate we need to do more. Then we might plan for dunes and/or groins (jetties), and finally, perhaps closer to the end of the century, managed retreat.

Premature calls for planned retreat on a large scale have caused major divisions and unnecessary damage to property values in other communities. We don’t need this in Imperial Beach. Instead, we need to stay calm, plan for staged adaptations through the trigger-based approach we are currently refining (which is supported by the Coastal Commission) and avoid alarmist rhetoric that leads nowhere.

Ed Spriggs, councilmember
Imperial Beach, California

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