The North Coast climate assessment warns of higher temperatures, prolonged dry seasons, more extreme weather events and a decrease in river streamflows. Tuesday morning, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will get an up close and personal look at the report.
The board will hear a climate change assessment coordinated by University of California Berkeley professor Theodore Grantham, a Eureka High School graduate, on the impacts climate change will have on the region. The assessment includes input from local cities and counties across the North Coast region as well as tribes and state and federal agencies.
Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson placed the climate assessment on the agenda and he hopes the report will better inform local governments and residents about the importance of addressing impacts from climate change.
“I saw this as an opportunity to bring this forward so more of the public can be aware of the information available,” Wilson said Monday. “The report has some modeling more specific to our area. We are continuing to update our General Plan process and our zoning maps with a focus on hazards like sea level rise and wildfires. This information is important.”
The potential for increased fire risks in local forestlands is a concern as is sea level rise that will impact communities and properties along Humboldt Bay and that sea level rise will have a direct impact on how local governments plan for future developments.
“Humboldt County has approved a number of flood plain developments where in essence we are saying ‘it’s OK to build on the plain as long as you build 2 feet above the 100-year flood level,'” said Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “We can’t plan for these things by looking in the rearview mirror anymore. We have to plan moving forward in a time of abrupt climate change.”
The assessment also points out residents might not see a change in the amount of rainfall the region gets but the nature and timing of that rainfall could change with periods of heavy rain during the winter months and then periods of extended drought during the drier months.
The heavier rains could lead to more erosion and then to landslides along with flooding. Streamflows will decline during the dry season combined with increased flows during winter.
“One thing is hard not to notice in the new report is the changes are happening faster than we previously projected and what we are watching for are the fastest changing patterns,” Kalt said. “Just from casual observation, our springs and falls are a lot drier and it seems we are getting the rainfall in a tighter window of the year. How does that impact inland streams where coho salmon spawn? If the rainy season is changing, what other impacts on the environment, the fish, the rivers will we see?”