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Even conservative Newport Beach gets serious about rising sea levels

March 6, 2011 | 10:15 am

Photo: Balboa Island storm

Communities up and down the coast have begun drafting plans to build up wetlands as a buffer against rising tides, to construct levees and seawalls to keep the waters at bay or to retreat from the shoreline by moving structures inland.

Among them is Newport Beach, a politically conservative city where a councilmember once professed not to believe in global warming. Now, the wealthy beach city is considered to be at the forefront of preparing for climate change.

Though some in Newport Beach remain skeptical that global warming caused by humans is elevating sea levels, city planners are looking at raising seawalls by a foot or more to hold back the ocean. New homes along the city's harbor are being built on foundations several feet higher than their predecessors as a precaution against flooding.

"I feel a real sense of urgency to begin planning for this right now," Mayor Michael Henn said. "To me it's irrelevant what the causes of global warming are. What we are dealing with is the reality that sea levels are rising."

Read more: "Coastal cities prepare for rising sea levels."

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Water surges over the seawall on Balboa Island in December, when a major storm hit. Credit: Newport Beach General Services