Marcio Jose Sanchez/2011 AP PhotoA summit hosted by local and state politicians today will examine how rising sea levels are affecting the economy in San Mateo County communities such as Half Moon Bay

Peninsula conference focuses on sea level rise

Information gathered from a series of statewide hearings on rising sea levels and their impact on California’s economy will be presented at a conference in San Mateo this morning.

The public is invited to attend the conference to learn how the Peninsula is being affected by rising sea levels and how the county can protect itself. State Assemblyman Rich Gordon, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier and county Supervisor Dave Pine are hosting the conference at College of San Mateo.

Gordon said the county is uniquely positioned in that it has both a rural and agricultural coast and an urbanized and developed Bay zone, both of which are vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Gordon and the Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy have been hosting a series of hearings around the state. Previous hearings have included testimony from scientists and industry leaders addressing the question of how sea-level rise will affect the state’s fishing, agriculture and tourism industries, along with its shipping ports, transportation infrastructure and airports.

The keynote speaker at today’s conference is John Englander, an oceanographer, consultant and sea-level rise expert who authored “High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis.” Englander’s book asserts that sea levels have changed very little over the past 6,000 years, but are now rising and causing shorelines to move.

“We already saw king tides reaching the edges of the Bayshore near Redwood City, and this is just the beginning,” Speier said. “The airport and other areas will also be profoundly impacted.”

Englander’s book also says “myths and partial truths” have been used to confuse the issue of rising sea levels and their cause.

“Sea-level rise is one of the most serious consequences of climate change and it will have a profound effect on San Mateo County, which has more people and property at risk from the rising sea than any other Bay Area county,” Pine said.

The conference is expected to be the first of many outreach efforts, according to Gordon.

“Congresswoman Speier, Supervisor Pine and I feel this should only be a beginning,” Gordon said. “We’ll need further opportunities for people to gather, discuss and plan.”

Gordon noted that although the conference is free to attend, seating is limited. The conference runs from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the College of San Mateo Theater Building 3, 1700 West Hillsdale Blvd. in San Mateo. For more information, visit sanmateosealeverise.wordpress.com.

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