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$77 Billion of Property Sits In Sea Level-Rise Flood Zone

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An estimated 2,606 buildings would need serious upgrades

It’s a good thing South Beach is building so high these days. The neighborhood will need every foot it’s got by the time the year 2100 rolls around.

For some time we’ve had a steady drumbeat of ill tidings related to the potential for bay waters to come surging into San Francisco’s low-lying neighborhoods (causing anything from minor but perpetual and expensive flooding to a deluge that would render those zones uninhabitable).

Now, Risk Management Solutions, a Silicon Valley-based disaster consulting firm, has put a handy price tag on the influx: $55 billion in the event of a 66-inch rise in sea levels over the next 84 years. The 66-inch figure is based on the worst case scenario laid out by the National Research Council.

Add in the extra damage of a 100 year storm (which, as the name implies, are due about every 100 years or so) and the price tag climbs to $77 billion.

That’s $39 billion worth of private property (an estimated 2,606 buildings sit in the likely flood zone), plus the price of infrastructure. Those figures are a bit misleading, though, because they represent what it would cost to recover from such a flood if it were to happen this year. Which of course it won’t.

Since RMS can’t predict inflation, property values, or for that matter future development in low lying neighborhoods over the next century, the dollar values are more of a benchmark reference of what we have to lose than a practical projection.

It also provides some potential perspective on things like the $5 billion cost of seawall repairs. An ounce of prevention may be worth two trillion gallons of cure.