'Significant risk' for some
A total of 257 technology companies located in the flood zone are at "significant risk," Mielke said. Of those, seven or eight are "particularly vulnerable," he said.
Mielke didn't identify those companies. But the Army Corps of Engineers in its draft study found that in the southern portion of Silicon Valley, companies in danger of inundation during a severe storm 50 years from now include Yahoo, Fujitsu, Infinera and Texas Instruments.
Most of those sit steps from San Francisco Bay in Sunnyvale. Google and LinkedIn are about 10 minutes north of there, in the Shoreline Technology Park section of Mountain View. Both companies are housed slightly downhill from a golf course that is next to the bay.
There are levees, but with sea level rise and a major storm, "the bay could be overtopped and would be knocking at Google's doorstep shortly," said John Bourgeois, executive project manager with the California Coastal Conservancy.
Google's headquarters sits on a mound that's above street level, which should keep the company dry over the next few decades, Bierman said. But flooding could be just a matter of time without changes in protection, he said.
"With sea level rise, no one in that zone is risk-free," Bierman said.
Theoretically, businesses could choose to move out of the flood zone when sea levels become more of a threat, said McCormick with the Moore Foundation. But there's not much land available at higher elevations, he said.
"An individual company may think, 'Well, I could move.' But when you start thinking, if all of those companies are going to move, where are they all going to go?" McCormick said.
New levee near Facebook?
The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority -- an alliance of local water and flood control agencies -- is studying the feasibility of building a new levee in the Menlo Park area.
"This right here we're looking at is actually below sea level," the group's executive director, Len Materman, said last month as he gestured at the wildlife refuge that's in front of Facebook's campus. "It doesn't take a lot of water for an area that's at or below sea level to be totally inundated."
The San Francisco Bay is just outside that refuge. Without the existing salt pond levees, Materman said, a high tide or tsunami could swamp the area and flood across to the freeway more than a mile away.
The Joint Powers Authority has had only preliminary conversations with Facebook about a new barricade, Materman said.
"I know that they want to bring in more employees ... that's their priority," Materman said. "Their priority is not flood protection or ecosystem protection. Their top priority is not what we're doing. We're proceeding. We hope to do it with the benefit of Facebook's participation."
Right now, however, there's only money to study and develop plans for a levee. The Joint Powers Authority would need to find funding to actually built the barricade. That could involve asking residents to raise their taxes, Materman said.
A proposal could be "targeted to a selection of parcels that pay a much, much higher and escalating amount in flood insurance and are otherwise directly benefited by the [levee] project," he said.
"So we are very hopeful that it can get the required two-thirds vote" for a special tax, or a majority vote for an assessment of the amount needed, Materman said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500