Dutch may help SF with rising tides

September 21, 2009 11:24:07 PM PDT
Concern over global warming has a lot of people concerned with how they deal the very real possibility of rising sea levels. Who better to give advice than those living right now below sea level? The Dutch have discovered that their experience with bad geography might create healthy profits.

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They came with friendship in mind, but when talking about rising ocean levels, money makes the world go round.

"We see opportunities particularly in the deltas of the world," said Dutch hydrology engineer Piet Dircke.

Dircke represents a Dutch company specializing in storm surge barriers. Holland has spent 800 years holding back the North Sea or letting it in as they fought the Germans during World War II. On Monday, some of their researchers and scientists presented findings of a joint climate study.

"Well this is a strategy that the Dutch has. They have a lot of expertise," said Will Travis from the San Francisco Bay Conservation Commission.

At this point, ocean levels rising are no longer theoretical, they're inevitable. Records show that in the last 100 years the San Francisco Bay has risen by eight inches and is accelerating.

Just last winter, high rains and tides pushed San Francisco Bay into the Embarcadero again. In the next century, water could easily reclaim 240 miles of San Francisco Bay coastline.

"You have to adapt over again. Climate change adaption is not for a certain moment. We'll have to do it for decades and centuries to come," says Dircke.

In San Francisco Bay, options range from a triage system to embracing the water in other areas to building up and back or even constructing a large movable curtain that might restrict the flow of tides from beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

"There is no estimate of the cost, but what we do know, is that not doing anything is five times as expensive as preparing for the inevitable," says Will Travis.

It is a future that, quite possibly, the people living now will see.

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