Humboldt Bay is experiencing the fastest rate of relative sea level rise in California and is likely to experience severe sea level rise (SLR) flooding within the next two decades. The Humboldt Bay shoreline is owned and governed by a patchwork of entities with different missions and jurisdictions so coordination of SLR planning will be critical because flooding of hydrologic areas from tidal waters can cross political boundaries. The goal of this project was to conduct social science research that can inform and advance the development of regional coordination and collaboration related to SLR in Humboldt Bay. To do this, I utilized a mixed-methods social science research approach of semi structured interviews (n=46), a survey (n=107), and document review to gather information on people’s knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and expectations of SLR planning and adaptation.
The data indicated that coastal professionals on Humboldt Bay agreed that SLR is a near-term issue and acknowledged a need for regional coordination but did not have a clear direction for how to coordinate cross jurisdictional SLR issues. Respondents identified governance challenges to regional SLR planning and adaptation that included a lack of resources, institutional and philosophical differences, and competing priorities. Responses indicated that environmental regulation provided both challenges and opportunities. Behavioral-related challenges and opportunities noted by study participants included leadership, trust, and personal acceptance of SLR as a phenomenon. Responses also suggested that engagement of the public by coastal professionals has been minimal and will need improvement in order to achieve more equitable adaptation strategies. This study contributes to research on the social and policy dimensions of regional planning and coordination for SLR adaptation and helps to inform local, state, and federal government of the challenges faced by coastal California communities.
Appendices are available at https://digitalcommons.humboldt.edu/etd/568/