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San Francisco to study port flood and earthquake risks

San Francisco to study port flood and earthquake risks

(Posted on 20/01/22)

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has announced $5 million in new funding for the Port of San Francisco and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to complete ongoing work to identify vulnerabilities and recommend strategies to reduce current and future risks to the San Francisco waterfront. The study will allow Port projects to be considered for future federal investment, a key goal for the Port and the City.

The study is part of the Port of San Francisco’s Waterfront Resilience Programme which includes a series of coordinated projects to ensure a resilient waterfront in the face of seismic and climate change related hazards. This waterfront resilience work includes the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Flood Study for the entire waterfront, as well as a program to strengthen the three-mile-long Embarcadero Seawall from earthquake, flooding, and sea level rise risks.

“Speaker Pelosi's bold leadership and deep commitment to the San Francisco waterfront is protecting people, critical infrastructure and neighbourhoods from the impacts of a devasting earthquake and future sea level rise,” said Port of San Francisco Executive Director Elaine Forbes. “Completing the USACE San Francisco Waterfront Coastal Flood Study is critical to ensuring that we are able to protect the waterfront and ensure that the billions of dollars in economic activity, critical transportation infrastructure and our most iconic destinations continue to stand strong for decades to come.”

The study will determine current life-safety risks at the waterfront, which is identified as key artery for the movement of people and goods in the event of a catastrophic earthquake. Additionally, the study is determining the impact of climate change, specifically more intense weather events combined with sea level rise, on the 7.5 mile waterfront. It will provide needed research to obtain future federal funding for identified projects.

“The USACE San Francisco Waterfront Coastal Flood Study is a major facet to how the Port is preparing for long-term, waterfront-wide resilience,” said San Francisco Port Commission President Willie Adams. “With this secured funding, thanks to the backing and leadership of Speaker Pelosi, we are assured of the ability to complete this study and make smart decisions to address vulnerabilities for current and future generations.”

The new funding was secured through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will cover the cost of completing the federal government’s share of the study when combined with $3 million in federal funds Pelosi previously secured. The 2020 Water Resources and Development Act guarantees that the Corps uses the best available, peer-reviewed science to develop the study. The Water Resources and Development Act also ensures that flood risk initiatives in areas at high risk for earthquake, like San Francisco, are not penalized in benefit-cost ratios.

On November 18, 2021, President Biden’s Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime A. Pinkham approved a request by USACE to add fifty (50) months and $10 million to the study, subject to a 50/50% cost share with the Port of San Francisco. This new funding completes the federal funding required to complete the study. San Francisco voters adopted Proposition A, the Seawall Earthquake Safety Bond which will provide the required local match to this federal funding. The study is scheduled to be done by November 2025.

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