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Rising Seas

Marin prepares for a wetter, warmer future.



IN THE WINTER days when the monthly tides are highest, you can stand on the narrow asphalt ribbon of the bike path that traverses Bothin Marsh in Mill Valley and watch the water of Richardson Bay climb over the man-made banks and rise slowly, inexorably, until its cold wetness reaches your shins. You are no longer on dry land. You are in the middle of the bay.

Flash-forward to the year 2100. The earth has had 88 more years to warm up, and the seas have been rising a little more every year. Your grandkids stand in that same place on the marsh and wait for high tide. When it comes, the water flows over their heads.

That’s climate change. That’s the threat Marin County faces — higher seas, bigger tides and stronger waves that could drown the marshlands of Mill Valley and Novato, flood neighborhoods built on reclaimed land in Tam Valley, Santa Venetia and Hamilton, and erode the coastal bluff s of Bolinas.

The mess that rising seas could make of Marin is but a small part of the larger challenge climate change presents to the planet. But this story is not about the global effort to regulate carbon emissions, not about the national yammering of politicians, preachers and scientific professionals about why the earth is warming (is it man, is it nature, is it a vengeful God delivering payback for our profligate ways?), and not about whether the earth is in fact getting warmer. The mercury is rising and the oceans along with it.

This story is about Marin County and how a lot of people here are trying to make sure that come the day when the waters of San Francisco Bay — which have already risen eight inches in the last century — are lapping at the doorsteps of homes and businesses now hundreds of feet from shore, the inhabitants of that warmer, wetter future do not ask of our generation: Why didn’t they do something?

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