Suisun City Pumps Up Resiliency
On a warm Sunday afternoon in late August, Sustainable Solano’s Alex Lunine and two local high school interns led a flood walk in Suisun City. Lunine carried a four-foot-long wooden pole marked by one-foot increments. Although he never referred to the pole during the walk, the visible marks loomed large as he explained that sea levels are predicted to rise between six and ten inches by 2030 and 13 to 23 inches by 2050. The Adapting to Rising Tides Flood Explorer Map shows that, unless action is taken, 24 inches of sea level rise will flood much of the eastern and southern parts of the city.
Suisun City is particularly vulnerable to rising waters, an issue first covered by KneeDeep Times in a January 2022 article called “Suisun is No Island.” The community is bisected by Suisun Slough, a wide waterway that terminates in a downtown basin surrounded by a flood wall. The city is also surrounded on three sides by marshes, a vulnerability that may also serve as part of the solution.
In recent months, Suisun City has been exploring a number of ways to increase its resiliency to sea level rise and storm surges, including updating infrastructure, building an ecotone levee, and holding a resiliency workshop.
One project at the southwest edge of town will restore the Kellogg Pump Station and its adjacent 850-feet-long and 50-feet-wide stormwater channel. The pump system at the downstream end of the channel conveys collected stormwater into the Suisun Slough. Both are at risk from early flooding.
Other Recent Posts
The Case for Climate Castles
As climate change throws more extreme events at us, isn’t it time to think bigger, bolder, further ahead? Six young architects draw climate-resilient castles.
Looking for Justice at the Nexus of Housing and Climate Policy
How housing is built and who it is built for are not only equity questions, but also climate mitigation questions. When people can afford to live near their jobs, their emissions from commuting go down.
Bittersweet Beach Outing to See King Tide
On a clear morning in January, a group of tide worshippers gathered at the Santa Monica Pier to “celebrate the ocean and build our climate community,” said Laurene von Klan.
Oona Khan dreams about her home of the future, after losing her Malibu retreat to fire. Caught in a quagmire of legal battles with Southern California Edison, and surging construction costs, Khan is still waiting to start construction.
Safer at School from Wildfire Smoke?
Research confirms the drastic impacts wildfire smoke has had on school learning. But 16 East Bay schools now have updated air filters and more actions are in the pipeline statewide.
My Neighborhood Wised Up to Fire
When we fled the house in the Santa Cruz mountains that we had been living in for just nine months, we knew exactly two of our neighbors.
In Part 1 FIRE, KneeDeep explores where to expect debris flows from burn scars, how one neighborhood became fire wise, and what schools are doing to become safe havens.
East Coast: Three Tales of Trouble and Triumph in the Fight Against Storm Surge
In this January mini-series, KneeDeep reaches across the continent to the East Coast to see how New York, New Jersey and Miami are wrestling with rising seas, whether they are succeeding in getting the local populace on-board, how the Army Corps’ is faring in its slow embrace of more nature-based flood-protection, and what parallels can be found here in San Francisco Bay. Three different angles on the same story, including one presented for your listening pleasure, by reporters Lilah Burke, Robin Meadows, and Ashleigh Papp.
Rising Seas Bring the Cryosphere to NYC’s Battery Park City
From New York’s Battery Park City and Staten Island to the Cryosphere, follow sea level rise resilience work in this 13 minute audio story.
How Far Can Metro Harbors Go on Nature-Based Shore Protection?
Typical flood protections rely on engineered structures. But there’s a new push at the national level of the US Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize working with nature. Storm surge plans currently underway in New York, Miami and San Francisco highlight a range of nature-based fixes.
The local sewer district is now reviewing proposals to design a nature-based solution to increase the flood and fire resiliency of the pump station and channel, improve water quality with green stormwater infrastructure, and explore options for a public park with walking trails and interpretive signs. One of the stated visions in the request for proposals is a 900-foot-long ecotone, or horizontal levee, a broadly sloped levee planted with native plants and scrub vegetation to slow water flow.
The district will choose a contractor in late October 2022, who will collaborate with nearby landowners and other stakeholders on three alternative designs. The district expects to choose a preferred design by May 2023. The state approved $8.6 million in its 2022 budget for the completion of the project.
“You think about the San Francisco Bay and what a big landscape it is,” says Emily Corwin, project lead and senior environmental engineer at the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District. “Even these small projects can add to improving the overall quality of the environment.”
Many more such projects are needed around the Bay. Indeed, the Kellogg station is one of dozens of aging pumps throughout the region ill-equipped to handle the increased flooding expected as sea level and groundwater rise combine with atmospheric river events and storm surges.
Suisun City’s Kellogg pump station and stormwater system protect the Cordelia Gateway Neighborhood, where homes and apartment buildings are at ground level. The same neighborhood is vulnerable to fire. In June 2020 a wildfire fueled by 100-degree heat and high winds burned 300 acres in nearby fields. The fire jumped the channel and burned eleven homes, four beyond salvaging. The fire also damaged the Suisun Wildlife Rescue Center next to the pump station. One of the goals of the Kellogg Resiliency Project is to build a fire road beside the channel, one that could double as a recreational trail.
In addition to the Kellogg project, Suisun City is taking other steps to improve its resiliency. In June 2022, the city partnered with The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Solano, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission for a community resilience building workshop. The Nature Conservancy has conducted this process for 450 communities in 12 states; Suisun City is the first West Coast city to participate.
A core team of concerned citizens (that included this writer) hosted a three-hour online workshop with community members, public officials, and representatives from the San Francisco Estuary Institute and UC Davis’s Center for Watershed Science. The workshop defined hazards, such as climate change induced flood and fire; recognized strengths, including a county-wide greenbelt ordinance that has resulted in 98% of the population living in cities; and identified actions like strengthening coordination among scientists and agencies to protect the Suisun Marsh while looking for ways to utilize the marsh in nature-based adaptations to hazards.
The findings of the workshop were presented to the Suisun City Council in September, and the community is invited to a listening session about the findings at Suisun City’s Environment and Climate Festival later this fall. The flood walks led by Sustainable Solano will likely be offered through December 2022.