Looking to Keep Imperial Beach Above Water

The South Bay city has a decades-old flooding problem that will only get worse

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Imperial Beach has a flooding problem. The city’s mayor and local researchers said it’s only going to get worse.

“Probably by [the year] 2100, more than 30% of our city will be impacted by coastal flooding,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

Mayor Dedina sites global warming, rising sea levels, a dated stormwater system, and his city’s geographic location, as problems that lead to flooding in his city. Imperial Beach has the Pacific Ocean to the West, San Diego Bay to the North, the Otay River to the East, and the Tijuana River Estuary to the South.

Civil Engineer Hassan Davani, Ph.D. pointed out that IB also faces rising groundwater levels from below and rain from above.

The heavily polluted Tijuana River adds to the problem every time it rains. Toxins and pollutants flush through the Tijuana River Valley and can find their way onto Imperial Beach streets.

“I believe this is a very, very big problem,” said Davani. “This is one of the most impacted areas in the entire United States because of sea-level rise and climate change.”

Davani is leading a team of researchers from San Diego State University and UC San Diego in a three-year study of Imperial Beach’s flooding problem. The SDSU professor said they intend to also present solutions for the city.

“Help us figure this stuff out so we can plan in advance and spend less money in the future,” said Mayor Dedina.

Davani said the team received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the study, which could ultimately help Imperial Beach invest in improvements now that could cost precipitously more in the future.

“It is incredibly urgent. We have to plan now for the future,” said Megan Welsh, Ph.D.

Welsh is another SDSU professor who will manage to engage the community with their opinions and solutions. She suggested simply investing in rain barrels to harvest rainwater could help prevent water from flowing into storm drains and compounding the problem.

“Then we’re going to take that information back to the City of Imperial Beach so that they can really implement the solutions that we recommend,” said Dr. Welsh.

The researchers presented their plans to the Imperial Beach City Council Wednesday evening.

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