Photo from Del Mar Times
This is a story about risk response, secondary risk, and stakeholder management. These are topics covered in the PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition. As project managers we know (from that very same PMBOK® Guide) that there are positive risks (opportunities) and negative risks (threats).
This is very much about a threat – the very real threat of sea-level rise. This is a big deal for our planet mainly because of the percentage of large cities and populations in general that live near coastlines. But one of the places where this is a noticeable big deal because of the value of the properties is Del Mar, California. Here, a duplex (a half of a house) goes for an average of $1.7 million.
One of the possible responses to the threat is something called “managed retreat”. The people of Del Mar, however, thought there was a significant secondary risk if that risk response was put in place.
Why the secondary risk? The moment the concept of leaving homes is even brought up, the prices of homes will drop, because that is seen as an admission that this land is simply not as valuable – in fact, may not even be land by the end of the century. Current predictions are for a 1-2 foot rise by 2050 and a 5+ foot rise by the end of the century, which would inundate the Del Mar area with sea water, , according to a recent climate report by the U.S. government.
Yes, the government overseen by Donald Trump. That US government. Of course, the Trump administration has chosen to tout that the report is exaggerated. But that’s not the issue here. Whatever your thoughts on that or on climate change in general, the project planning that comes up involves thinking about risk response and secondary risks.
As for that multi-million dollar duplex I mentioned earlier? If indeed the forecasts are true, you’d end up with a $1.7Million dollar deep-sea-plex, not a duplex.
There is an excellent NPR (US National Public Radio) story on this - listen to the NPR (National Public Radio) story here:
Here is a link to the page with the NPR story:
Let’s look a little more into the risk response…
How did the people of Del Mar react?
Retreat, was at least at first proposed… and look at the reaction:
The blow-back, though, was almost immediate. Realtors' groups spoke out against the plan. Homeowners were hysterical.
"What we learned from our community is that even the mere discussion of managed retreat, in the minds of some, completely devalues their property," says Amanda Lee, Del Mar's senior city planner.
The concern was that if the city formalized a plan that included retreat, it would be harder for property-owners to get loans or sell their land.
Hearing those concerns, "we started crossing out managed retreat and replacing it with other words like 'not feasible here in Del Mar'," says Terry Gaasterland, who chaired the city's Sea Level Rise Committee.
The city council even went as far as to pass a resolution banning future city councils from planning for retreat.
The town was reacting to the California Coastal Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance of November 2018, see this link:
California Coastal Commission Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance
Final Adopted Science Update | November 7, 2018
See City of Del Mar’s report: http://www.delmar.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/3321/Chapter-1-2017-11-21-CLEAN?bidId=
The Adaptation Plan includes the following components and adaptation measures to reduce
risks associated with future sea-level rise.
Public Facilities, Infrastructure and Beaches:
high priority sea-level rise adaptation measures for the City to begin planning for now include:
○ Relocating the City of Del Mar Fire Station
○ Relocating the City of Del Mar Public Works Yard
○ Flood-proofing the sewer lift station along San Dieguito Drive
○ Beach sand retention, replenishment, and management
San Dieguito Lagoon wetland adaptation:
○ Conversion of vegetated wetland to mudflat and open water habitats with sea-level rise could be partially accommodated and offset by allowing and facilitating the conversion of higher elevation area to tidal wetland habitat, such as the tern nesting island, adjacent upland habitats, and upstream riparian habitats.
○ Placement of sediment to raise the elevation of the wetlands (e.g., “spraying” material dredged from the River channel as a thin layer of sediment across the vegetated marshplain) has the potential to reduce or slow wetland habitat conversion.
○ Wetland expansion/restoration can create new wetlands with higher elevation areas that are more resilient to sea-level rise; wetland restoration is compatible with partial retreat and construction of “living” levees to reduce flood risks along the River.
San Dieguito River flooding adaptation:
○ San Dieguito River channel dredging and Lake Hodges reservoir management have potential to reduce river flood risks in the near- to mid-term.
○ A hybrid approach with restoration of developed area adjacent to the River to
expand the San Dieguito Lagoon wetland floodplain and construction of new levees between the wetlands and development can provide longer-term flood risk reduction; “living” levees can be designed to incorporate restored wetland transition and upland habitats that improve wetland resiliency to sea-level rise.
○ If Lake Hodges reservoir management is not possible, the timeframe for other measures may be sooner.
Bluff/beach erosion adaptation:
○ Beach nourishment and sand retention strategies as well as installation of access paths down the bluffs (e.g., stairways) in conjunction with authorized pedestrian crossings at railroad under- or over-passes may provide some near-term reduction in bluff erosion; investigating whether landscape irrigation in City neighborhoods east of the bluffs is contributing increased groundwater flow and associated erosion and the potential to reduce irrigation affects may also be beneficial.
○ Relocating the LOSSAN railroad will allow for continued landward bluff erosion, and thereby maintain a beach below the bluff and provide access along the bluff top.
○ Removal of bluff top sewer lines, drainage ditches, and fiber optic cables will eventually be required as the bluff continues to recede inland.
Beach coastal (ocean) flooding and beach erosion adaptation:
○ Beach and dune nourishment and sand retention strategies may provide near-term protection, but their effectiveness is likely to decrease over time with higher amounts and rates of sea-level rise.
○ Redevelopment policies and regulations can be developed for the LCP Amendment to make feasible the option of elevating structures.
○ Sand retention measures such as groins or artificial reef may help maintain the beach, but would likely introduce need for additional mitigation.
○ Raising/improving the existing sea wall and revetments (i.e., “holding the line”) would reduce flood risks with sea-level rise, but without accompanying beach nourishment may lead to beach loss over time. Beach loss adjacent to sea walls and revetments could lead to conflicts with Coastal Act prohibitions against protection in perpetuity.
○ Raising City infrastructure including buildings, utilities, and roads will likely be required to accommodate the increase in flood risk with sea-level rise.
The California Coastal Commission, for its part, isn't requiring cities to plan for managed retreat. Madeline Cavalieri, the coastal planner for the commission, says there's no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with sea-level rise; different cities need to consider a combination of different strategies.
As you can see, this is all very relevant to project management. Being familiar with the stakeholders, their reaction to risk response, and the new risks introduced by risk response – these are all fundamental to doing a great job as a project leader.